North Charleston man accused of burying body, sprinkling salt on grave declares innocence

Rolando Aldama-Ocampo, 35, appears for a hearing Friday after North Charleston police said he stabbed a man and buried the body.

North Charleston police said he admitted to burying a slain man’s body behind the restaurant where he lived and worked, but Rolando Aldama-Ocampo professed his innocence in court Friday night.

The 35-year-old faces a murder charge in last year’s stabbing death of Jose Rolando Martinez Castro, 22.

After the victim’s “demise” during a fight in November, Aldama-Ocampo put Castro’s remains in the earth behind La Bomba Bar and Grill and covered them with pool salt, hoping to mask their presence, an arrest affidavit stated.

But this week, the police said, he led detectives to the grave.

When he appeared at Friday night’s bond hearing, though, he blamed others for his legal predicament. He spoke through a Spanish interpreter.

“I am an innocent person,” he said. “I am here because of other people.”

Before the man’s declaration, Magistrate Sheryl Perry had told him that she couldn’t set bail “due to the nature of the offense.” The law requires murder defendants to go in front of a circuit judge later if they wish to get bail.

Aldama-Ocampo also faces felony drug charges.

He will remain at Charleston County’s jail. He also is being held on a detainer by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a step the agency takes only for inmates who don’t have paperwork proving they entered the country legally. An ICE spokesman said he couldn’t provide information on the suspect’s citizenship because of privacy rules.

Friday’s court proceeding revealed fresh details of a months-old mystery for police officers who were probing Castro’s disappearance since the early winter.

Both men have aliases, the affidavit showed. The victim’s is Wilmer Fernando Serrano Mata. The suspect’s is Epifanio Martinez Beltran.

Castro died sometime in November of a stab wound in his chest.

On Dec. 3, someone reported him missing. North Charleston investigators looked around, but they turned up no clues about where he might have went.

Then on April 8, the affidavit stated, they developed Aldama-Ocampo as a suspect in Castro’s disappearance. The detectives brought him in for questioning, and he waived his constitutional right not to answer them, they said. He then “confessed ... to being involved in a verbal/physical confrontation ... that resulted in (the victim’s) demise,” the affidavit stated.

He told the police about the pool salt, they said, and later, he took them to the shallow grave behind the restaurant at 5020 Rivers Ave.

And when authorities dug up the remains Wednesday morning, they found what they said looked like pool salt.

Reach Andrew Knapp at 843-937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.