A drug informant's body was found nearly naked by a Polk County cemetery, and court documents outline a disturbing murder investigation leading to the arrest of two men.
The body of James Hawkes IV, 29, was discovered at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 29. Deputies said he had bruises on his face and red marks around both his wrists and ankles.
Hawkes had recently been booked into the Polk County Jail but was also a confidential informant for the Polk County Interagency Narcotics Team, according to court documents.
Investigators said Hawkes was involved in a controlled buy of drugs from Jimmy Fears, one of the men charged with his murder.
According to court documents, Fears, 44, and Zachary Mersch, 24, gave similar accounts of killing Hawkes on Dec. 11, but each claimed the other one was more involved.
They both stated they met Hawkes at the Courtesy Inn, 270 N. Pacific Hwy in Monmouth, after learning he was a police informant. They planned to confront him about being a "snitch," according to a probable cause document.
Each suspect claimed the other had punched Hawkes 50 times and used a stun gun on him. Court documents state Hawkes was then tied up and gagged with a rag and tape.
Mersch claimed Hawkes died in the motel room, but Fears said he was still alive when they wrapped him in a blanket and brought him down the stairs of the motel, only to die a short time later, according to court documents.
A probable cause statement says the men drove around Polk County trying to find a place to dump the body, before settling on the Pedee Cemetery. Hawkes' clothing was removed, down to his underwear.
The suspects then drove back to the motel and disposed of the clothing, tape and binding materials, according to police records.
Both suspects live in Independence and were arrested Monday. They appeared in court the following day on charges including aggravated murder, kidnapping, resisting arrest and conspiracy to commit murder. They are both due back in court this week.
Police said Fears also had a felony warrant on the charge of delivery of methamphetamine.
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