Joel Luna, 30, was taken from his Hebbronville home on a charge of possession of a controlled substance Thursday by Cameron County sheriff’s deputies, Texas Rangers and federal agents.
On Friday morning, Luna, who had been transferred to Cameron County, was charged with capital murder, engaging in organized criminal activity and tampering with physical evidence. He is being held without bail.
At the time, Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio declined to comment on the possible involvement of organized crime in Mexico. But on Friday, he said investigators now believe that the case is connected to a drug cartel across the border.
Palacios was reported missing days before his headless body was pulled from the Laguna Madre off South Padre Island by a fisherman. His chest had been mutilated with a sharp object, suggestive of organized crime violence in Mexico, officials said.
Palacios had a criminal history, including drug- and immigration-related arrests, and he had been detained by the Border Patrol for being in the country illegally. His common-law wife said he was in the country unlawfully at the time of his death. His remains were identified by his fingerprints in a federal database. His head has not been found.
|Fernando Luna Rodriguez|
It was also revealed that two of the men charged in the case, Fernando Luna Rodriguez and Eduardo Luna Rodriguez, are brothers of Joel Luna.
Through interviews with the accused, investigators learned of a safe that Joel Luna allegedly had hidden in the home of his mother-in-law in San Juan. Stashed in the safe was a kilogram of cocaine, an undisclosed amount of methamphetamine, two handguns and nearly $90,000, all of which was seized by authorities.
The Border Patrol released a statement in response to the Luna arrest, stating that corruption and abuse are not tolerated within the agency. Luna will be placed on administrative leave, the agency said.
|Eduardo Luna Rodriguez|