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Man charged with setting 25-year-old El Paso woman on fire in drug dispute for being a ‘snitch’

UPDATE, Nov. 16: A 37-year-old man was charged with capital murder Tuesday in the death of a native El Paso woman whose body was set on fire in Midland County earlier this month in retaliation for a drug dispute, sheriff's officials announced.

Sergio Antonio "Tony" Cerna of Pecos was served with a murder warrant in the Reeves County Jail, where he was being held on unrelated drug charges, according to the Midland County Sheriff's Office.

Cerna is accused of killing 25-year-old Saffire Marie Armenta, whose burnt body was discovered by firefighters who responded to reports of a fire along a Midland County road on Nov. 2.

His bond was set by a judge at $1 million on the murder charge, which is in addition to a $100,000 bond on felony drug possession.

Court documents allege that Cerna, who was in a relationship with Armenta, killed her because she stole eight ounces of methamphetamine from him and also was a "snitch" to police about his illegal drug activities.

According to a sheriff's affidavit, Cenra sent Armenta text messages on the day of her death in which he threatened to "burn" her.

(Sergio Antonio "Tony" Cerna)

UPDATE, Nov. 12: EL PASO, Texas -- The family of a 25-year-old El Pasoan whose body was found burned in Midland last week received her remains on Friday. 

It took Midland County Sheriff's investigators six days to identify Saffire Armenta's remains.

“I can’t believe that she's dead and I'm not going to see her again, she was such a happy child,” said Armenta's grandmother, Hortencia de la Rosa.

She told ABC-7 that her granddaughter moved to Midland four years ago in search of better opportunities, and now pleads for justice as the death investigation continues.

"I just want justice for my granddaughter, I hope and pray to God they find the people that killed her because it's not fair," she said.

The Sheriff's Office said Armenta's death was a homicide, but no arrests have yet been made.

The family is holding a vigil for Armenta at De Vargas Park on Saturday at 6 p.m.

ORIGINAL REPORT, Nov. 10: MIDLAND, Texas -- A 25-year-old El Paso native has been identified as the woman whose burned body was discovered in Midland last week.

In a news release, the Midland County Sheriff’s Office said Saffire M. Armenta had been set on fire and called her death a case of homicide.

"Saffire Armenta was a native to El Paso, she played softball and was a cheerleader for the T-Birds in the Lower Valley," family friend Monica Almanza told ABC-7 in an email on Wednesday. "She would brighten up a room with her smile and contagious laugh. She did not deserve to die."

Sheriff's officials said her body was discovered by Midland firefighters who responded to a report of a fire on the evening of Nov. 2. But firefighters indicated there was no fire, just a burned body at the scene in the 5000 block of FM 1213.

No arrests have yet been made in the case and authorities urged anyone with information about the murder to call the Midland County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Unit at 432-688-4600.

Meantime, friends have set up a GoFundMe account to help Armenta's family bring her body home to El Paso for a funeral service and burial.

(Saffire Armenta, homicide victim.)

Jim Parker

Jim Parker is the Director of Digital Content for ABC-7.

Brianna Perez



  1. Looks like a great guy. Chicks get involved with these guys and then are surprised with the violence, not smart. Poor girl wanted a better opportunity and moved to midland and hooked up with a meth dealer…….. did alot of wrong things

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