Third Suspect Arrested in Rio Hondo Teacher Murder
These three are now linked to the third grade teacher's murder. The main guy behind the killing, Cameron County Sheriff investigators say is 39-year-old, Julio Cesar Perez, the Rio Hondo teacher's husband, who's also a pastor.
Court documents show Perez reported his wife missing 20 minutes before authorities found her body inside her van. He told investigators the last time he heard from his wife was at 3:30 that Thursday afternoon. The teacher was found several hours later inside her vehicle on Williams Road in Rio Hondo.
The constable deputy found Perez sitting on the driver's side with a bullet wound to the head and to the right side of her body.
Perez and 19-year-old, Gabriel Apolinar Escalante, were arrested and charged with capital murder over the weekend. Both are being held at the county jail without bond.
In the affidavit, Perez allegedly hired Escalante and 37-year-old, Daniel Lopez, to kill his wife. Escalante’s sister-in-law was brought in for questioning. She told authorities she was the one that introduced him to the pastor. The pastor told her weeks before the murder that someone was in his way and needed someone to take care of his problem. Escalante turned himself in when he learned his wife had also been picked up for questioning.
In the records, it states Escalante did meet Perez in Brownsville. There, the pastor told him he needed to kill a guy that was harassing him. Escalante told Perez he knew someone who would help him but needed money in advance. That day, the pastor gave Escalante $200 in cash. That’s when Perez got in touch with Lopez.
There was a second meeting. This time, all three talked inside the pastor's car. Perez gave Lopez more cash. The third meeting took place at a parking lot in San Benito. There, Perez gave Lopez $1,000. The last meeting took place the day of Sonia’s murder when they told the pastor the job was done and where the body was located. Escalante told investigators that Lopez told him he shot and killed the teacher and showed him a .357 revolver.
Today, at the school teacher's visitation, we spoke to one of her relatives. Joel Padilla tells us the family is destroyed. The world has lost someone who was wonderful to not only her family, but to others as well. She was a devoted teacher and it's a shame she's gone. When asked about the teacher's husband's supposed connection to the murder, he said this:
"I forgive him because god also forgives us. It’s not in our power to base judgment. It’s up to god. We forgive him."
Padilla says both families have gotten together and are united through this difficult time. Both sides are in deep pain and are supporting each other to move on from this tragedy.
Lopez was arrested this afternoon. He’s awaiting capital murder charges.
Perez’s funeral will be held at Thomae-Garza Funeral Home in San Benito tomorrow at 10 a.m.