Harlingen lawyer remains missing

BROWNSVILLE — Harlingen attorney Ernesto Gonzales still has not shown up in court for his protective order hearing.

Retired District Judge Robert Garza made the decision yesterday morning to abate the case, or dismiss it until Gonzales is found.

“What happens here is that we can’t do anything about the protective order. We have to have the hearing in a certain amount of time,” Garza said.

“Basically, I put it aside. There is no protective order. We’ll just wait and see whether he shows up or not. I’m not going to have the family come in every 30 days.”

Gonzales went missing on July 18, five days after filing for a protective order against his extended family.

In an affidavit, Gonzales said he had to carry a hidden, unloaded pistol in his truck because he feared for his life.

According to the affidavit, Gonzales had a confrontation with some family members on June 21, the day he learned his mother suffered two “mini strokes.”

He called a doctor and was advised to call EMS.

“My siblings kept yelling at me that our mother was not going to be taken to the hospital,” he said in the affidavit.

Gonzales’ sister, Mary Ann Vilafana, has said she was concerned about his well-being prior to his disappearance. She said he was acting “out of the ordinary.”

“We were trying to get help for him,” she said. “And all we want to do now is find my brother, because we love him.”

The family said they believe Gonzales is alive.


July 13

Harlingen attorney Ernesto Gonzales files a court request for a protective order against five extended family members. Gonzales states, “I fear for my life.”

July 18

A sister reports Gonzales missing. The same day, a judge in Brownsville grants a temporary protective order against the five family members and sets a hearing on the case for July 27.

July 27

Gonzales fails to appear for the hearing. Judge resets the case for Aug. 10.

Aug. 10

Gonzales fails to appear in court.

Case is reset for Aug. 30.

Aug. 11

Protective order hearing is reset

for Sept. 5.


For a third time, Gonzales fails to appear in court. Judge lifts the temporary protective order. “Protective Order is abated and is lifted until Plaintiff/Movant is located or he makes an appearance. Matter can be reconsidered. Protective Order is set aside until then,” the judge rules.