Crime

Starr County man suspected in 2019 murder dies in prison

Ismael Mares

A man who was suspected of killing a woman in Rio Grande City in 2019 has died in prison, according to the 229th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Starr County.

Ismael Mares Jr., 44, died in custody at the Ramsey unit in Rosharon, Texas, according to Starr County District Attorney Gocha Ramirez.

Ramirez was not sure of the exact date of the incident, saying only that his office confirmed the death Monday morning. He also would not disclose details of the circumstances surrounding Mares’ death but said more information would be forthcoming.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. An official report has yet to be filed with the Texas Attorney General’s Office.

Mares was suspected of killing Valeria Salinas, 27, of Rio Grande City while he was out on parole. In 2010, Mares was convicted and sentenced to serve 15 years in connection to an attempted murder indictment that was dismissed after he pleaded guilty to home burglary and assault of a public servant charges.

He was out on parole by 2017.

Two years later, Salinas’ body was discovered in a puddle of blood with an apparent gunshot wound to the head on April 21, 2019.

Omar Escobar Jr., the district attorney at the time, said it appeared it was likely a burglary that turned into a homicide. Escobar now has a private practice for criminal defense and general civil litigation in Rio Grande City.

In December 2020, the Texas Rangers turned over the case to the Starr County DA’s office, Escobar told The Monitor.

Mares was the only named suspect, though a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. However, Mares had yet to be indicted on the murder charge.

“In my experience with the Texas Rangers, they don’t actually turn over the case file until they feel they’ve completed the investigation,” Escobar said.

Before an indictment could be filed, the office changed leadership after Ramirez assumed the role of district attorney.

“I didn’t take over until January of 2021, and I can tell you that the investigation is ongoing and is not complete,” Ramirez told The Monitor, referring to the case file transferred. “We expect that it will be complete here soon and our policy at the DA’s office, now, is that we don’t comment on ongoing investigations.”

He said he knows why the indictment did not move forward, but won’t disclose the information at this time.

Ramirez said his office shared the same information with Salinas’ family, adding that any speculation into the circumstances of Mares’ death that was already circulating online was inaccurate.

Mares and his older brother, Luis Mares, 47, are both suspected members of the Mexican Mafia.

Less than a month ago, Luis Mares confessed he was involved in a 2001 murder along with another member of the Mexican Mafia. He also told investigators he had offered the same confession to the district attorney in 2004.

The Starr County Special Crimes Unit made the announcement on July 26 and corroborated Luis Mares’ allegations that a key piece of evidence in the case, a DNA match with Luis Mares, was disregarded 17 years ago.

Written by BERENICE GARCIA and VALERIE GONZALEZ

Categories: Crime

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