LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Cold case homicide detectives are asking for help from the public in solving a brutal attack that left a Las Vegas woman dead and a man paralyzed for life. It happened in 2011 at Six Mile Cove, an out-of-the way beach on Lake Mohave, a few miles east of the town of Searchlight.
It’s a case the I-Team has covered before, but police now have new hope that the killer can be brought to justice. The sign on the dirt road leading to Six Mile Cove proved prophetic for two Las Vegans who were enjoying a Lake Mohave getaway.
The cove is mostly frequented by locals and can get fairly busy during the summer, but was almost deserted one afternoon in late October 2011, when Leo Cardenas and his girlfriend, Rosa Castrejon, arrived and camped under a tree.
Friends say the two loved the outdoors and each other. They brought along a new metal detector and spent a few hours scouring the beach. However, someone was watching — a lone camper parked on the south end of the beach. Right around sunset, things turned ugly.
“They’re just meandering and using their metal detector. They’re in somewhat close proximity to the suspect’s camp. And then, according to our surviving victim, the man just walks up to him, swearing, and pulls a gun out and starts shooting,” said homicide Detective Ken Hefner, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
A windsurfer camped on the north end of the beach says he heard what sounded like muffled gunshots but he didn’t bother to check it out.
Homicide detectives have pieced together the sequence of events. The suspect, described as a large, heavily muscled man with close cropped hair, fired multiple shots from a revolver, first at Cardenas, then at his girlfriend. Rosa was hit in the head and died on the spot. Leo was gravely wounded but stood back up.
“The male victim, now back on his feet, the suspect starts shooting at him again and seriously wounds and drops him down,” Hefner said.
But Cardenas was still alive. The suspect strolled to his vehicle, described as a 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee, tan or gold, where he retrieved a large knife, then returned and stabbed Cardenas multiple times. The killer then packed up his camp and drove away. Cardenas was alive but couldn’t move.
When the I-Team first covered the case in 2012, then-homicide Lt. Ray Steiber talked about the long, cold, agonizing night Leo spent on that beach.
“I couldn’t begin to imagine,” Steiber said. “He laid there with his significant other and he knew she was gone, and he couldn’t do anything to help her, or even himself.”
The next morning, another person arrived, saw the carnage, and called police. Cardenas survived but lost the use of his legs forever. Detectives collected physical evidence such as boot prints, tire tracks, and a solid description which was a buffed-out male, late 40s to early 50s, and tall.
Hefner says there is unspecified DNA evidence that can now be processed, because of technology that was not available when the crime occurred. Police believe the suspect may be a local, or was otherwise familiar with the out of the way cove, and because the attack was unprovoked, they think it’s possible the killer likely has a violent past.
This case can be solved, with help from the public.
“Oh it’s definitely solvable, and especially by somebody who knows this guy. He’s got, he has to have a personality that fits these actions. He has to be a hot head, short-tempered brawler of some type. I mean, these are small people, and he’s a huge guy,” Hefner said.
The suspect would be older by now, perhaps in his late 50s, and may no longer own the tan or gold Jeep. Detectives also say the revolver used in the murder is distinctive, but they are withholding that information.
Anyone who might have information is urged to call Metro Homicide at (702) 828-3521, or can call the I-Team.