Man who hid meth, heroin in apartment walls is convicted

SEATTLE -- A Lakewood man who was caught hiding bricks of heroin and meth inside his walls after his roommate was murdered was convicted Thursday of numerous drug and gun offenses.

Police first learned of 33-year-old Juan Hildalgo-Mendoza when his roommate, Jaime Diaz-Solis, was gunned down in November 2012 at the Lakewood apartment the men shared.

When officers arrived on scene, they found Diaz-Solis on a sidewalk near the apartment with a fatal gunshot wound to the chest.

Witnesses said they saw Hildalgo-Mendoza dragging the body out of his first-floor apartment and screaming for neighbors to call an ambulance, according to federal prosecutors.

Hildalgo-Mendoza originally told officers he was in his bedroom when an intruder burst into the apartment and shot Diaz-Solis, but detectives suspected the shooting was drug related.

On the night of the shooting, police searched the apartment and found two bricks of heroin wrapped in duct tape and an AK-47 style assault rifle, according to prosecutors.

They also found a revolver in Hildalgo-Mendoza's bedroom closet and $37,800 in cash hidden under the seat of his truck.

He was arrested for drug conspiracy and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Prosecutors say he had prior drug and gun convictions from California.

That would have been the end of the story, but two months later police received a tip that the roommates had hidden a large amount of drugs somewhere inside the apartment.

With help from the Thurston County Narcotics Task Force and the Tacoma DEA office, police got a warrant to search the apartment, which by that time had a new tenant.

That warrant paid off when officers found roughly 32 pounds of heroin and 4 pounds of methamphetamine hidden inside the walls of the unit. Police say the drugs were hidden behind a heater in two different walls.

Based on the purity level of the drugs, police say the stash has a street value of approximately $500,000.

After a three-day jury trial, Hildalgo-Mendoza was convicted of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense and being a felon in possession of a firearm/ammunition.

He's facing a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years to life when he's sentenced in August.