RGC CISD employees found shot execution-style

RIO GRANDE CITY — The bodies of two Rio Grande City CISD employees were found inside a bedroom — bound at the hands — each with a gunshot wound to the head.

Oneida Alanis Balderas Garza, 44, and Lourdes M. Luna, 33, were found inside a residence in the 200 block of Ebony Court at about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday shot execution-style, but as of late Wednesday evening Starr County Sheriff’s officials would not confirm their identities.

After news broke around the small community, officials with the school district prematurely released the names of the employees on the official district website with a page expressing condolences to the women’s families. A school board budget online lists Garza as a compliance officer and Luna as an accountant at the school district.

Wednesday, a sheriff’s office patrol SUV blocked the entrance into the quiet neighborhood as Rangers worked to gather evidence in the gruesome shooting.

Maj. Carlos Delgado, of the sheriff’s office, said the double-homicide investigation was turned over to Rangers with the Texas Department of Public Safety but did not explain why.

DPS spokesman Sgt. Juan Hernandez, confirmed Rangers were leading the investigation into the deaths of the two women, but referred all calls to Starr County District Attorney Omar Escobar.

Escobar said he made the decision to use Rangers on the case because they had access to more resources and have expertise in capital murder cases.

But a source familiar with the case said the investigation was turned over to DPS because of a close familial relationship between one of the victims and an employee within the sheriff’s office.

The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not have permission to release details on the case, said Luna’s husband is an investigator with the sheriff’s office.

An address listed to Luna in the 2000 block of Palm Circle matches the address listed for investigator Osdy G. Luna, 35, an investigator with the sheriff’s office.

Escobar and Delgado both told The Monitor they could neither confirm nor deny the relationship between Lourdes Luna and any employee within the sheriff’s office.

The district attorney said they had not named any suspects in the case but names of possible suspects had been discussed.

In January, an investigation was launched by the Starr County Attorney’s office after cash went missing from the sheriff’s office.

The money, more than $6,000 in cash, was reported missing sometime in mid-September, at which point sheriff’s officials asked for assistance from the Texas Department of Public Safety but were turned down and told to handle the matter internally, according to a spokesman with the sheriff’s office.

Employees with the sheriff’s office were interviewed by investigators from the Starr County District Attorney’s Office but no one has been charged and the investigation is ongoing.

During an impromptu news conference, RGC CISD School Board President Daniel Garcia expressed sadness on behalf of the board.

“These two individuals were truly public servants. They went out of their way to serve our district, our students, our faculty, and they will be greatly missed,” he said.

Garcia said Rio Grande City High School was placed on lockdown earlier that day for a few hours but assured it was just a precautionary measure as the school is located less than a mile from the crime scene.

Out of respect to the two women, the school board postponed Wednesday’s meeting and moved a track meet to Mission.

“We’re going through a sad situation, a time of mourning,” he said. “We feel that it’s more important to be with our families.”

Garcia said the business office was making arrangements to continue its day to day operations, but the loss was nonetheless difficult for colleagues of the victims.

“Everybody’s in shock; everybody’s heartbroken,” he said. “They were more than just employees, they were our friends.”

lzazueta@themonitor.com and bgarcia@themonitor.com