Details of Disappearance
Mendez left Matteo's Restaurant in the 200 block of south Federal Highway in Boca Raton, Florida at 10:30 p.m. on February 1, 2008. He had worked at the restaurant as a waiter for about four years. He also worked part-time as a dancer at the Tenampa club in Lake Worth, Florida, where he used the stage name Gaviota.
Mendez went home to his apartment in the 1700 block of northwest 15th Vista and changed clothes. He spoke to a relative on the phone about an hour after he was last seen. He has not been heard from since.
Mendez is described as an ideal employee who always called if he had to be absent from work, and it's uncharacteristic of Mendez to leave without warning.
He moved to the United States from Oaxaca, Mexico in 1996. His younger brother also lives in the U.S., but the rest of his family, including his mother, wife and two children, live in Mexico. He left his car and other belongings behind, and from the onset of the investigation authorities thought foul play was possible in his case.
In July 2010, Juan Carlos Atenco Camacho was charged with Mendez's murder. A photo of him is posted with this case summary. He was the last person known to have seen him, and cellular phone records indicated his story about when he last saw Mendez was untrue.
Atenco Camacho is married. He had one young son by his wife and his teenage girlfriend was pregnant with his child in February 2008. He had also had sex with Mendez, although he says he isn't gay.
Atenco Camacho stated the two men were in a car in the parking lot of Mendez's apartment complex when Mendez told him he loved him and asked him to leave his wife. Atenco Camacho refused and asked Mendez to leave the car, but Mendez wouldn't go and they got into an argument.
Atenco Camacho says he drove Mendez to his own former residence in Palm Springs, Florida and stabbed him to death with a fishing knife during a struggle. Atenco Camacho led authorities to a canal near PGA Boulevard and the Bee Line Highway where he says he dumped the body. Investigators searched the site, but didn't find any evidence.
In October 2012, Atenco Camacho pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to fifteen years in prison. The original charge of second-degree murder carries a thirty-year sentence.
Mendez's body has never been found, but foul play is suspected in his disappearance due to the circumstances involved.