INDIANAPOLIS — A Marion County man has been sentenced to 55 years in prison for his involvement in the 2019 death of a man near a homeless camp along the White River during a robbery.

Fernando Bornstein, a 21-year-old Indy man, was sentenced Monday on one count of felony murder for the death of Meliton Salazar.

The murder

Salazar died on Oct. 10, 2019, in Eskenazi Hospital one day after Indianapolis Metro Police officers found him in a pool of blood under a bridge near Washington Street and White River Pkwy. A coroner said he died from blunt force traumas to the head and neck and that shrapnel was found in his leg.

The victim, IMPD said, was carrying a handgun at the time of the incident. However, his holster was empty when he was discovered by police and no fired casings were found in the area.

The investigation

IMPD detectives connected Bornstein to the murder through an interview with his girlfriend Jacqueline Lizarraga, who was texting with Salazar shortly before he died.

Lizarraga, after multiple interviews, told IMPD detectives that she had set up a robbery of Salazar that resulted in his death.

IMPD said Lizarraga admitted that she took Salazar to the area near White River knowing he was going to be robbed for his gun. She had ridden there in a car with the three men she said killed him, identified as:

  • A man with the initials J.O.
  • A man known as “Andy” or “Smoke”
  • Fernando Bornstein

The case against Bornstein

The woman told IMPD that Bornstein, her boyfriend, was the one who “directed everyone as to where they were going” to rob Salazar and that he chose the bridge area to avoid being noticed by nearby homeless people.

Lizarraga told officers she started to feel bad and cry when Salazar arrived because she knew she was “leading him to his death”. The two walked together down a hill, where Bornstein, J.O. and Andy were waiting.

Bornstein, court docs show, pushed Salazar back against a wooden pillar and J.O. began hitting him. When Salazar tried to grab his handgun, Bornstein reached into his pants, grabbed it and shot Salazar in the leg.

According to Lizarraga’s testimony, the man identified as J.O. then “beat Salazar to death with a hammer”.

The aftermath

After the murder, Salazar’s gun was traded to a man identified as “Capo” for some THC cartridges and marijuana, court docs show.

Police discovered that Lizarraga had been texting with both Salazar and Capo before and soon after the murder. When IMPD officers called Lizarraga for an interview, she was with Bornstein.

Bornstein dropped Lizarraga off at her house and was worried she would “snitch”. He forced her to block everyone involved in the murder on Snapchat and he asked Capo to do the same.

After Lizarraga confessed to her involvement, IMPD began looking for Bornstein. On Dec. 25, 2019, he was arrested in connection to another robbery.

Homicide detectives then interviewed Bornstein. He initially denied his involvement in the murder before admitting that he helped planned it and participated. IMPD said the following:

“Fernando stated his role in the robbery was to hold Meliton down while J.O. and Andy jumped and robbed him. Fernando stated Jackie’s role was to get Meliton down there. Fernando stated J.O. hit Meliton with a hammer repeatedly. Fernando admitted to picking up Meliton’s .22 caliber handgun and fleeing the scene with the others.”

Bornstein told officers the group then went to Beech Grove and threw the hammer in a creek. They then met with Capo and traded the stolen .22 handgun for weed.

As for motive, Bornstein told IMPD that he had planned the assault and robbery because Salazar was “trying to mess with” Lizarraga, his girlfriend.

The legal case

Bornstein was arrested for felony murder following his confession and was walked to Marion County Intake for processing. His case concluded on Monday when he was sentenced by a jury to 53 years in prison, and 2 years suspended for his time spent in jail, following a 2-day trial.

“This marks the conclusion of Bornstein’s case,” Prosecutor Ryan Mears said. “Moving forward, there is still much work to be done in ensuring that all parties are held accountable for their actions in this tragic murder.”

Both Lizarraga and Andy Rosales Orellana, AKA Andy, were also charged with murder for their roles in the death. Their cases are both pending.

Additionally, Jayzn Martin was charged and has since pleaded guilty for his role in the death as well as three unrelated cases.