Sheriff: Ex-boyfriend beat woman to death, hid body in field

HARGILL — A woman’s deranged ex-boyfriend bludgeoned and beat her to death and then dumped her body in a field near this northern Hidalgo County town, authorities said.

Authorities found the body of 35-year-old Laura Isabel Reyes partially buried beneath grass clippings Monday afternoon in a field less than a mile east of M. Davila Road, near Farm-to-Market Road 490, said Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño.

Investigators believe Reyes’ slaying came at the hands of an obsessed ex-boyfriend, Jose Juan Sanchez, 33, who had allegedly abused her and threatened to kill her in the past. Deputies said Sanchez likely fled to the Houston area.

“It is one of those obvious domestic violence cases that we see way too often,” Treviño said.

Reyes’ family told deputies they had last seen her Sunday morning and believed she was doing well.

Authorities discovered her body about 4:45 p.m. Monday — nearly 24 hours after a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper found Reyes’ brown Dodge Caravan parked near the intersection of Davila and FM 490.

The van’s shattered front passenger window, blood on the driver’s-side window and a shoe jammed between the driver’s-side door and the vehicle led troopers to believe the vehicle had not been involved in a crash.

U.S. Border Patrol cadaver search dogs led investigators to Reyes’ body in the field, where it appeared someone had cut nearby grass and vegetation “in an obvious attempt to hide her,” the sheriff said.

The woman’s body was fully clothed except for the shoe found in the van, Treviño said. It remains unclear whether she suffered any other abuse immediately before her death. However, investigators found a rock at the scene that they believe was used to kill her.

An autopsy that was to take place Tuesday evening should provide more details about how she died.

Records show Reyes had a driver’s license with a Dallas address.

But she had most recently lived in Edinburg and McAllen, the sheriff said.

Her slaying marks the 15th new homicide case the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office has investigated this year.

Local law enforcement agencies across Hidalgo County have probed a total of 24 new homicide cases so far in 2009. A fatal shooting Tuesday morning near Alton became No. 16 on the list of homicides the sheriff’s office has handled this year.

Sanchez and Reyes had each found new relationships since they split up three months ago, but he would still call her and send her text messages, Treviño said.

Friends of Reyes told investigators they had witnessed Sanchez frequently abusing her and threatening to kill her — clear signs of domestic abuse that are common motives in homicide investigations, the sheriff said.

“We have seen that too many times,” he said.

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Jared Taylor covers law enforcement and general assignments for The Monitor. You can reach him at (956) 683-4439.

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