BROWNSVILLE — One of Leo Martinez’s last wishes was that Brownsville police would arrest the suspect or suspects responsible for killing his son.
Martinez’s 25-year-old son, Dean, was shot in the head outside his home in November 1995 shortly after celebrating his birthday.
“The parents’ last wishes, of course the dad in this case, was that the suspect or suspects be held accountable for this terrible crime,” Police Chief Orlando Rodriguez said yesterday at a press conference at the Brownsville Police Department.
Some 21 years after the slaying, police have arrested 37-year-old Felix Rey Abundez , who was 17 at the time and is suspected of killing the younger Martinez and another man.
Abundez was arrested Thursday in Brownsville by a fugitive task force, Rodriguez said. Abundez was arraigned on a count of capital murder and placed under a $3 million bond.
The shooting was a result of a dispute between the men, according to police.
“At the time, there was a dispute, and it escalated to this and tempers flared,” Rodriguez said.
Authorities said Abundez is accused in the shooting deaths of Dean Martinez and 19-year-old Adan Montes on Nov. 22, 1995 in front of Martinez‘s home at 1015 E. Taylor St .
Leo Martinez reported hearing six shots in front of his home just after midnight. Dean Martinez had just celebrated his birthday two days before.
Because this case “went on for over 20 years we can’t deliver the good news to Mom and Dad (Martinez‘s parents) because they have since passed on,” Rodriguez said. Police have contacted other family members to advise them of the arrest.
Police have been unable to notify Montes’ family because he was an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, but police are trying to make contact with his relatives too, Rodriguez said.
“Our efforts (to locate Monte’s family members) are through the Mexican Consulate to try and find extended family in Mexico. There were no local contacts here for him,” Rodriguez said.
According to The Brownsville Herald archives, Martinez died at the hospital on Thanksgiving Day after he was shot in the head, and Montes died at the scene after he was shot in the stomach. Leo Martinez called police when he found his son and the other man on the sidewalk shortly after midnight. Police said the shooting stemmed from an argument.
Initially in 1998, Rafael Maldonado was arrested and charged with the murders. The case against Maldonado was dismissed Dec. 3, 1998, pending further investigation, authorities said.
Rodriguez said the 21-year-old case was reviewed by the department’s newly established cold case unit, which was put together to investigate unsolved murder cases.
“It was a matter of putting together different reports, scenarios, reports and persons of interest, and that is what led us here. These cases become complicated because sometimes you go in the wrong direction based on the information you have at the time,” Rodriguez said.
According to Rodriguez, information based on witnesses and a timeline created by investigators led to Abundez’s arrest.
“It took a set of fresh eyes and relooking at facts,” Rodriguez said. “Sometimes that’s all it takes, and in this case we had two investigators, Thomas Clipper and Crystal Ramirez, who did a tremendous job in bringing this man into custody.
“We believe that justice now will prevail and the person that is in custody, Abundez , now will be successfully prosecuted,” the chief said.