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Teen suspect shot 17-year-old victim 5 times in car before dumping body, detectives say

Gardy Strague, 17, charged with murder in fatal shooting of Emmanuel Castaneda
Gardy Strague and Emmanuel Castaneda
Posted at 11:22 AM, Jan 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-11 14:22:05-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A 17-year-old Lantana boy was shot to death in his car by another teenager during a drug buy before his body was dumped in an embankment near Loxahatchee, according to a probable cause affidavit obtained Wednesday by WPTV.

The body of Emmanuel Castaneda was discovered Dec. 21 near 75th Lane North and 120th Avenue North, four days after the teen's mother reported him missing.

According to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, leading up to Castaneda's disappearance, he had spoken to someone in private Instagram messages about meeting to pick up 4 pounds of marijuana.

"An examination established he was shot multiple times and rolled down a steep embankment," the affidavit said. "Before being rolled down the embankment, evidence at the scene highlighted the victim was initially dragged. Emmanuel Castaneda's car, mobile device, shoes and keys were missing."

An autopsy later determined Castaneda had been shot five times.

Cellphone data showed that Castaneda called the same number several times on the day he disappeared.

Detectives traced the number to Gardy Strague, 17, of Greenacres, who has been arrested in connection with Castaneda's death.

According to the affidavit, Strague's cellphone data places the suspect in the area where Castaneda's body was found for almost 14 hours.

Detectives also learned that the numbers associated with Castaneda and Strague had "frequent communication" in December leading up to Castaneda's death.

Emmanuel Castaneda's mother consoled as she leaves court, Jan. 11, 2023
Emmanuel Castaneda's mother is consoled by family members as she leaves court for the first appearance of her son's suspected killer. Gardy Strague, 17, of Greenacres, has been denied bond.

As detectives continued to trace Strague's whereabouts through his phone, location data led them to Castaneda's Toyota Camry, which was parked outside an apartment building at the Vista Lago Apartments on Jog Road.

"Detectives observed what appeared to be a blood-like substance visible on a backpack resting in rear seats, black slides in the rear seats, the side of the driver's seat and rear driver's area," the affidavit said.

Crime scene investigators also recovered three .380-caliber cartridge casings indicative of the victim being shot while sitting in the driver's seat.

With the help of phone records, surveillance video and unnamed cooperating witnesses, detectives were able to link Strague to the crime, the affidavit said.

According to the affidavit, one of the cooperating witnesses claimed that Strague admitted he had "popped" a guy who almost robbed him.

Detectives said Strague denied any involvement after his arrest.

Strague has been charged with murder, armed carjacking and shooting into an occupied vehicle. He is being tried as an adult.

The teen suspect refused to face a judge in court Wednesday morning. The judge denied Strague bond and ordered him to have no contact with Castaneda's family.

Sarah Malega, Castenada's godmother, released the following statement to WPTV on Wednesday on behalf of the teen's family:

"At this time we would like to thank the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office and the district attorney's office for the progress they've made in bringing Manny's killer to Justice. We are thankful for all the media coverage and the community support and at this time just ask for prayers and respect of our privacy until we're ready to have a press conference."