Florida Husband Who Grieved Wife's Death, Called Her 'Irreplaceable' After She was Fatally Shot, Charged with Her Murder

A husband, his cousin, and the cousin's girlfriend are behind bars in Tampa, Florida, for allegedly collaborating to kill his wife and an ex-boyfriend as part of an elaborate framing plot, state authorities say.

Cornelio Negrete Jr., 28, was arrested on Tuesday, nearly a month after his wife, 22-year-old Erica Negrete, was shot to death outside their home on July 18. Cornelio's cousin, Daniel Negrete and his girlfriend, Fatima Garcia Avila, were arrested earlier this month, as previously reported,

Negrete Said He was Heartbroken Over Erica's Death in News Interview

Cornelio Negrete and Erica Negrete
Cornelio Negrete and Erica Negrete Facebook

On July 18, Cornelio said he was putting their 7-month-old son to bed when he heard gunshots outside their home. Negrete said he rushed outside after he heard her screaming and found her lying on the ground.

Cornelio said he was also injured by a gunshot but survived the shooting. Several hours later in the hospital, Cornelio said two deputies and a chaplain delivered the "worst news" that his wife didn't make it.

In the wake of the shooting, Cornelio told local news outlets that he was heartbroken over Erica's death. "My daughter cries because she wants to see her mom and its like no daughter should do that," Negrete said at the time.

At Erica's funeral, Cornelio told WTSP 10 that he didn't know who the shooter was but, even if he did, he'd never be fully happy again without Erica. "I won't be 100 percent happy if they are behind bars because they took my wife and she is irreplaceable, but I will know they can't do this to anyone else," Cornelio told the station at his wife's funeral.

Cornelio Tried to Pin the Murder on Avila's Ex, Made his Death Look Like Suicide

Fatima Avila, Cornelio Negrete and Daniel Negrete
Fatima Avila, Cornelio Negrete and Daniel Negrete Twitter

It turns out Cornelio was the one who allegedly ordered the hit, helping kill his wife while trying to frame the ex-boyfriend of his cousin's girlfriend with the crime, cops say.

Avila's ex-boyfriend, identified as Antonio Cuellar-Enriquez, was found dead about a week after Erica's death at the Baker Creek Boat Ramp in Thonotosassa. According to authorities, the death was made to look like a suicide. Avila allegedly said she "had to use somebody to take the fall" in Erica's death, "so who else better than my ex?"

After police went through Cuellar-Enriquez's text history, they found texts that showed Avila contacting Cuellar-Enriquez that asked him to spend the night with her. When the unsuspecting Cuellar-Enriquez obliged, the affidavit says, Avila tried to slip him pills for a headache she hoped would kill him.

The pills failed to knock out or kill Cuellar-Enriquez, however, so Avila put in a call to her boyfriend for help. When Daniel arrived, he confronted Cuellar-Enriquez and shot him after a "struggle," the affidavit said.

Cornelio Arranged to Kill Erica After Learning She Cheated on Him

Erica Negrete
Erica Negrete Facebook

According to the arrest affidavit, Cornelio and Erica's relationship was testy as of late, the affidavit said, as Cornelio learned Erica had cheated on him with two men from her work.

Before dying, Cornelio claims his wife told him to go get his gun, he told investigators. When he returned, however, he was "hit" by something in the head and briefly blacked out. When he regained consciousness, he said he saw his wife's assailant driving away in his truck as she laid dead. He then called 911, court documents say.

That truck, a Chevrolet Avalanche, was found later that night, engulfed in flames about 8 miles away. Cornelio was treated for the head injury he claimed to have, but a CT scan revealed no damage and his head showed no apparent trauma, the affidavit said.

Text Messages That Unravelled the Murder Mystery

Investigators had a breakthrough when Erica's father received a text in Spanish from a number linked to Cuellar-Enriquez, Avila's ex-boyfriend who used to work for the father's tire company.

The text from "Antonio" apologized to the grieving father for what "they did," and that his conscience was killing him, the affidavit said. The father, Gabriel Aviles, immediately turned the text over to law enforcement to investigate.

But, police later determined, it wasn't Cuellar-Enriquez who sent the time-stamped texts, because he couldn't have. He'd been murdered five hours before the first message was ever sent on July 25. With Cuellar-Enriquez dead, the affidavit says the couple used his cellphone to send texts to Erica's father in an attempt to implicate him for Erica's murder.

Cornelio faces charges of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, principal to first-degree murder, tampering with physical evidence and false reports to law enforcement. Both Avila and Daniel face charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. All three are being held without bail as they await trial.