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Leonardo Arebalo, 59, beaten to death at home
Suspect reached police by social media
A transient man with connections to Dilley has been remanded into custody on a first-degree felony murder charge after a six-month investigation revealed that he may have beaten a local resident to death with a baseball bat.
Identified through the Frio County Jail as 22-year-old William Martinez, the suspect in the case was formally charged after an interview with Dilley police and the Texas Rangers on Sunday evening, September 13, when he allegedly made a statement related to his involvement in the murder.
Law enforcement officers had been dispatched to a residence in the 100 block of Ranchito Street on the outskirts of town on February 28 to investigate the death of 59-year-old Leonardo Arebalo, who was found to have succumbed to injuries sustained in a beating, according to police. A subsequent investigation, however, was fraught with lack of further evidence that might help identify a suspect.
In a brief statement Tuesday, Sept. 15, Dilley Police Chief Homer Delgado and Lt. Anthony Zertuche said they believe the suspect in the case took the opportunity of a newly launched police social media presence to make contact with investigators.
Chief Delgado said Martinez first attempted contacting police anonymously but a detailed investigation into his identity was immediately launched with the help of other officers and a civilian employee of the department.
“We believe that the suspect wanted to reach out to us, that he wanted to get something off his chest, and we were open to talking with him about that,” the police chief said this week. “This was an unsolved homicide, and we quickly found that the social media platform was a valuable tool.”
Delgado added that the investigation involved close collaboration between Lt. Zertuche (who was serving as interim police chief at the time), Detective Cpl. Juan Mirelez, crime scene investigators of the Texas Rangers, the Department of Public Safety and other law enforcement agencies in the area.
The police chief was quick to note this week that he and his officers are assuring the community that the apparent attack on Arebalo in February was an isolated incident and that there was no evidence to suggest the murder had been a random home invasion or that others might follow.
“This is an ongoing investigation, and we are still looking into the suspect’s possible motive for this deadly assault,” the police chief said. “We believe there must have been a connection between the suspect and the victim, and that’s what we are working on now.
“Once we had identified who the anonymous contact was, we went to the neighborhood where we believed he might be staying,” Delgado said. “Our officers made contact with him there. We were very concerned with the suspect’s wellbeing, so we brought him to the police department to talk with him.
“He was very cooperative,” the police chief said of the suspect’s response to a police interview. “We spoke with him to get an idea of his frame of mind, and to determine whether he posed a threat to himself or others.”
The chief said the Sept. 13 interview between Texas Ranger Daniel McMillon and the suspect revealed that Martinez knew details of the murder that had not been made public. He added that Martinez gave a voluntary statement and “made a full confession to Ranger McMillon and Lt. Zertuche.”
Martinez was arrested and transported without further incident to the Frio County Jail.
“This was a case that I know Lt. Zertuche was keen to resolve for the community of Dilley and before he leaves the department at the end of the year,” Chief Delgado said. Zertuche is the current Democratic Party nominee for the office of La Salle County sheriff and will run unopposed in the November general election for the job. He is scheduled to take office on January 1. “He was determined to take care of this case and to put the people at ease, regarding the possibility that a potentially violent suspect was on the loose.
“This investigation has yet to be completed,” the police chief said. “We have to explore every possibility, and we could not have done this without the assistance of the other agencies involved.”
“This has been a team effort between all of us,” Lt. Zertuche said. “Everybody was relentless on every lead that came in, every phone call.”
The Dilley PD is asking that anyone with additional information related to the crime contact investigators at (830) 965-2113.