Man who pounded nail into murder victim’s heel sentenced to 16½ years in prison after testifying in codefendants’ trials

A man was sentenced Monday for his involvement in the torture and murder of another man whose body was found in a culvert back in spring 2021.

Arturo Morales-Ceras, 35, pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree murder for the death of 39-year-old Manuel Mandujano.

According to the terms of the plea agreement, Morales-Ceras agreed to a 16½-year prison sentence and had to testify in the trials of his codefendants in the case. Morales-Ceras faced an aggravated sentence of 20 years if he did not testify in the other trials because of the “particular cruelty” of the crime, according to the plea agreement.

Two others were convicted of second-degree murder for Mandujano’s death.

Ivan Contreras-Sanchez was sentenced last summer to 40 years in prison.

Edgar Daniello Martinez-Montez, 37, was convicted Thursday. He also faces up to 40 years in prison and is set to be sentenced on May 18.

Another person, Tomasa Martinez, faces one count of kidnapping and is set to go to trial next month.

The criminal complaint states that Mandujano’s body was found weeks after his family reported him missing. His hands were bound behind his back and a nail had been driven into the back heel of his foot.

Court records show that Morales-Ceras admitted to going to a homeless encampment with Contreras-Sanchez where they found Mandujano and forced him into a black Chevrolet Malibu Maxx at gunpoint.

They then took him to a nearby home where he was beaten and interrogated about being a “snitch” and working with the police.

Morales-Ceras also admitted to pounding a roofing nail into Mandujano’s heel.

The criminal complaint states Morales-Ceras told police Mandujano “was in very bad shape” but was still alive when they brought him out of the house.

Mandujano was then wrapped in plastic and put in the back hatch of the Malibu Maxx. Morales-Ceras, Contreras-Sanchez and Martinez then all got in the car and began to drive south. During that time, Contreras-Sanchez, who was sitting in the back seat, said that Mandujano was dead, according to the criminal complaint. They then continued to search for a place to dump Mandujano’s body.

Mandujano’s body was then found on the morning of April 26 by a passerby about one mile east of Chippendale Avenue and 255th Street West in Castle Rock Township.