Investigators identified the weapon used to kill journalist Alfredo Villatoro earlier this month and charged three more people in the case, raising to eight the number of accused, Honduran officials said.

Charges were filed Tuesday against three men arrested last weekend in the northern province of Cortes because one of the firearms seized from them was used in Villatoro's murder, Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office spokesman Melvin Duarte told HRN radio.

"We have gathered sufficient evidence, one being the discovery of the weapon used in this crime," Duarte said.

The 47-year-old Villatoro was kidnapped May 9 in Tegucigalpa while driving to radio station HRN, where he had been employed for two decades and worked as news coordinator.

The journalist's body was found on May 15, a few hours after President Porfirio Lobo said there was evidence Villatoro was still alive.

Police seized six firearms from Osman Osorio Arguijo, 29, suspected leader of the gang that abducted Villatoro, Marvin Gomez, 28, and Edgard Osorio Arguijo, 24, after arresting them Sunday in the village of El Cacao.

Authorities released two women detained at the house where the three suspects were arrested because there was no evidence linking them to the crime.

Ballistics tests provide "resounding evidence" that one of the six firearms seized from the suspects was used to kill Villatoro, who was shot twice in the head, Duarte said.

The weapon matched "the bullet casings found" at the site in extreme southern Tegucigalpa where the journalist's body was found, Duarte said.

"The team will continue conducting more investigations to find the intellectual author of the kidnapping and murder of Villatoro," Duarte said.

Journalism has become a dangerous occupation in Honduras, where 29 media professionals have been slain since 2003, and none of the killings have been solved, the National Human Rights Commission says. EFE