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

Rolando Aldama-Ocampo, 35, appears for a hearing in 2016 after North Charleston police said he stabbed a man and buried the body. File

A Mexican national who fatally stabbed another man, buried him behind a North Charleston bar and covered the remains in salt was sentenced to a state prison term this week.

Rolando Aldama Ocampo, 38, pleaded guilty Monday to one count of voluntary manslaughter in connection with the November 2015 death of Jose Rolando Martinez Castro, according to a statement by the 9th Circuit Solicitor's Office. 

Ocampo's defense attorney, Mark Peper, stated that his client entered an Alford plea. In such a plea, the defendant admits that there is enough evidence to convict but doesn't admit to the criminal act they are charged with and asserts their own innocence.

"He never once admitted to the crime, but given the circumstantial evidence and expected testimony, it was in his best interest to avoid a likely conviction and life sentence by pleading to the lesser included offense under Alford," Peper stated. 

He was given credit for time served in custody since April 12, 2016, according to court records. 

Ocampo, who also goes by Epifanio Martinez Beltranand and doesn't have legal residency in the U.S., was sentenced to the maximum allowable sentenced of 30 years on the charge, the Solicitor's Office stated. He will serve roughly 24 years, seven months of his sentence before being deported to Mexico. 

According to investigators, Castro, who also went by Wilmer Fernando Serrano Mata, was reported missing on Dec. 3, 2015. North Charleston police searched unsuccessfully for him and identified Ocampo as a suspect in his disappearance by April 8, 2016.

The detectives brought Ocampo in for questioning and he "confessed ... to being involved in a verbal/physical confrontation ... that resulted in (the victim’s) demise," according to an affidavit.

Ocampo admitted to putting the 22-year-old's remains in a grave behind La Bomba Bar and Grill, 5020 Rivers Ave., and covering him in pool salt.

According to the Solicitor's Office, Ocampo was the manager of La Bomba and lived in an apartment above the bar.

An examination of Castro's body concluded he was killed by a stab wound to the chest, that he had been beaten before being killed and that he was stabbed in the hands and in his left eye, the Solicitor's Office stated.

Witnesses told investigators that Ocampo and Castro were in a romantic relationship and that Ocampo got jealous when Castro "struck up a relationship with (his) niece," the Solicitor's Office stated.

"We were relentless in finding witnesses to help pull this case together," said Assistant Solicitor Culver Kidd, in a statement. "I hope this case will show our Hispanic and Latino community that every life is precious to the Solicitor’s Office."

Reach Gregory Yee at 843-937-5908. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryYYee.

Gregory Yee covers breaking news and public safety. He's a native Angeleno and previously covered crime and courts for the Press-Telegram in Long Beach, CA. He studied journalism and Spanish literature at the University of California, Irvine.