Police: Texas pastor paid men $1,300 to kill wife

AP News
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Posted: Apr 04, 2011 5:10 PM
Police: Texas pastor paid men $1,300 to kill wife

A Texas pastor charged in the shooting death of his wife paid two men $1,300 to kill the third-grade teacher after telling an alleged middleman that "someone was in his way," authorities said in court documents released Monday.

Julio Cesar Perez, 40, who leads a small-town church called Manantial de Vida in San Benito, was charged with capital murder and remained in Cameron County jail without bond. He has not yet entered a plea. The jail had no attorney information listed for Perez, and public records didn't list a phone number at the family's home in San Benito.

One of the two men Perez allegedly hired, a church member, also was arrested and charged with capital murder, authorities said. The second man was being sought.

Sonia Perez, the pastor's wife, was found dead Thursday in her van with a bullet hole in her head, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by Harlingen television station KGBT. An officer found the 39-year-old teacher with the car still shifted into drive and her foot on the brake pedal.

Two days later, a woman told investigators that Julio Cesar Perez had asked her three weeks earlier about two men she hired in the past to beat and rob someone, according to the affidavit. The woman, whose name is redacted in the affidavit, said she put the pastor in touch with a man who authorities say found the person to kill Sonia Perez.

According to the affidavit, Perez told investigators he did not have any marital problems and didn't know anyone who would want to hurt his wife. He told them he called his wife's principal to ask about her whereabouts after she didn't pick up their oldest daughter from school.

"They never had any problems, they were always happy, always showing each other love, supporting each other and always together at church," Bertha Trevino, a teacher at Perez's church, told KGBT.

Perez was arrested Sunday. Gabriel Apolinar Escalante, 20, was also arrested and charged with capital murder. He was also being held without bond, and has not entered a plea. The jail had no information about whether he had an attorney yet.

"When Gabriel came back home, he stated the pastor was having a situation with his wife," the three-page affidavit reads. "Gabriel stated the pastor wanted him to take care of the problem."

San Benito is about 20 miles north of Brownsville along the border.

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Information from: KGBT-TV, http://www.valleycentral.com