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Three compelling cases from The First 48

Three law enforcement officers stand by yellow police tape looking concerned
Image: The First 48

Experienced detectives know how vital the first 48 hours of a murder investigation are. If they don’t have a lead, a suspect, or an arrest during that time, their chances of solving the case are cut in half.

The First 48 follows some of the leading homicide detectives from across the United States as they work to identify suspects and make the necessary arrests. The intrigue of real-life, real-time murder cases, coupled with the intense race against the clock, makes it one of the most watched true crime shows on television.

No two investigations are the same and The First 48 gives viewers a unique look into the varying circumstances and processes that detectives go through to make an arrest. Multiple seasons of The First 48 are available on Crime + Investigation Play, including new weekly episodes from season 25.

Here are three of the most compelling cases from season 23.

Christian Jones

In August 2017, 17-year-old Christian Jones was fatally shot at his home in Tulsa. His roommate, Jeremiah Peer, was arrested for his involvement in the death. With just a few hours gone in the investigation, Peer was interviewed by police with blood stains still visible on the front of his vest and his hands.

He had initially told the detectives that he was cleaning his gun while walking around a corner when Jones pulled out his own gun and made a faux threat. Peer then claimed he flinched and accidentally discharged his weapon which struck Jones in the neck.

However, several of the pair’s friends were also on the scene and told a much different version of events. After slight pressure from the detectives, Peer conceded and agreed to tell them what really happened.

The death was purely accidental as both Peer and Jones had their guns out. The teenagers were acting out a typical scene from a Western movie by pretending to be two cowboys with their weapons pointed at each other. Peer said “Draw” and Jones “clicked” his gun. Nothing happened. Peer “clicked” his gun and it went off, lethally wounding his friend. He had thought the safety was on.

He originally lied because he knew he was facing a manslaughter charge. The interrogation skills of the detectives and the honesty of the witnesses meant the true version of events was quickly established. Peer pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Aftab Ahmed Khan

Aftab Ahmed Khan was working as a convenience store clerk when he was shot and murdered in an apparent armed robbery gone wrong. The 51-year-old was shot three times, twice in the shoulder and once in the forehead. The on-scene detectives immediately reviewed the CCTV and identified the murderer as a young man wearing sunglasses. He had pointed the gun at Khan and gestured that he hand over money from the cash register.

The police initially reached a dead end but were assisted by still surveillance images from a nearby school. They showed a man, resembling the suspect, getting into a blue car and driving away in the direction of a second robbery that had happened in the area. The vehicle was eventually tracked down and, when police attempted to approach it, the three male passengers ran away towards a nearby apartment complex.

An intense standoff ensued with police pointing multiple firearms at the building. They were able to make one arrest when 19-year-old Cesar Espinoza jumped from the roof of the building and attempted to flee. It later transpired that he was the armed robber who entered the store and took Khan’s life.

His accomplices, José Mata and Bayle Snell, were apprehended three hours into the standoff when police fired pepper balls into the apartment they were hiding in. Espinoza received life imprisonment for first-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon. Mata was charged with second-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon, while Snell was charged with second-degree robbery.

Israel Martinez-Hernandez

Israel Martinez-Hernandez, a man who was gunned down in his own front yard, was reportedly having an affair with a married woman. Therefore, police detectives deduced that he lost his life as a result of the love triangle.

They learnt from a witness that “the streets” were talking about the man responsible for the murder, a man who simply went by ‘Martin’. After establishing that Martin’s real name was ‘Telesforo Renteria’ and that a vehicle resembling his was seen near the crime scene, the police brought him and his wife in for questioning. However, his wife was not the woman that Martinez Hernandez met for drinks on the night of his murder. She said that Renteria was with her at home, but he got a phone call in the very early hours and claimed that he had to go and pick someone up.

Another woman, who Israel was texting, arrived at homicide for questioning. She said that they met up for drinks, but she asked him to take her home when she felt dizzy. He allegedly refused and drove her to his house instead. The woman rang Renteria, with whom she was also having an affair, and sent him her location.

The police had gathered enough evidence to charge Renteria with murder after establishing the pair got into a physical confrontation when he arrived on the scene.