Friday, January 22, 2010

Starr County Fair Set for February 25-27


The 45th annual Starr County Fair, set for Thursday-Saturday, February 25-27, will feature events for the entire family. Get out your boots and hats and round up your entire family, as the theme for this year’s fair is “A Good ol’ Starr County Roundup.”

The Wild Game Dinner, held as a kickoff event for the fair, is scheduled for Saturday, February 20, and the pageant to select the Starr County Fair Queen and Princesses will be held on Sunday at the auditorium in Ft. Ringgold in Rio Grande City.

Mark your calendars with these important dates!

Get your dancing boots dusted off. This year’s fair will feature top entertainment for dancing and pleasure on Friday and Saturday evenings, and the carnival will be in full swing starting Wednesday evening. There will be something fun for the entire family, including a petting zoo for the kiddos.

Various stage performances will take place during the day by dance and music groups, featuring D.J. Johnny Zarate. The dancing, singing, and instrumental talents of Starr County students will be showcased.

Livestock, baking, youth and adult art, youth and adult arts and crafts, clothing, educational posters and farm shop competitions will be held throughout the three-day event, with exhibits to be viewed.

Chick and duck, rabbit, and pig scrambles will continue to be an open event for any youngster attending the fair. Sponsored by H.E.B., the scrambles will be on Friday and Saturday evenings.

At 6:00 p.m. on Thursday will be the official Opening Ceremony of the Fair, at which the winners of the Queen’s pageant and the scholarship winners will be introduced, as well as the Parade Marshal for 2010, Emma Gonzalez of Rio Grande City. Fair directors and all who help with the fair will also be recognized.

The trail ride and Starr County Fair parade will be on Saturday morning, February 27, at 10:00.

The cook-off is scheduled for Sunday, February 28 at the Fairgrounds and will begin at 8:00 a.m., which will also be the registration deadline. Judging will begin at 11:30. Cooking teams are encouraged to enter in various categories by contacting Mike Villarreal at 956-716-6830, or they may register on site by 8:00.

For more information about the fair, you may contact Lori Peterson Perez at 488-0122 during office hours or e-mail For the Wild Game Dinner, contact Billy Canales at 487-2596. For the parade, call or text Tissa Peterson at 500-1430. For a booth, contact Aisha Cruz Reyes at 298-0709. For the pageant, call the Extension Office at 487-2306.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


A suspect in a April 1987 murder in the Escobares area was arrested on Wednesday evening, Jan. 6 in a joint operation by the Starr County Sheriff’s Department and the U.S. Marshals Service.

Juan Francisco Martinez-Bautista, 53, was arrested at a Roma residence at approximately 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 6. He was apprehended after trying to flee through the back door of his residence.

Bautista was arraigned before 229th District Court Judge Alex W. Gabert and charged with murder in the April 19, 1987 slaying of Margarito Alaniz, Jr. near San Julian Road north of Escobares. Bautista’s bond was set at $1 million.

Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Guillermo Pena declared Monday, “He (the suspect) was apprehended in a joint operation between the Sheriff’s Department and U.S. Marshals Service. We had been following tips concerning the suspect for several years. We learned recently that he was living at a residence in Roma.”

Pena added, “When he was arrested, he tried to flee through the back door of his residence. He was unarmed at the time of his arrest.”

“He was believed to have crossed between Mexico and the U.S. a number of times in recent years,” stated the Chief Deputy. “At one time, he was believed to have lived in the Houston area.”

Alaniz was 30 at the time of his shooting death during the evening hours of April 19, 1987. Pena indicated, “He was shot several times in different parts of the body.”

Pena declared, “The slaying was believed to have occurred after an argument about a horse…The homicide was committed on April 19, 1987 at a ranch at San Julian Road in the Garceno area.”

The April 23, 1987 edition of The Rio Grande Herald reported that Alaniz “was shot at least four times at approximately 8:30 p.m. Sunday (April 19) at a private residence in the San Julian area three miles north of Escobares.”

The sheriff at the time, Gene Falcon, indicated in April 1987 that an autopsy revealed that Alaniz was shot twice in the stomach, once in the head and once in the leg.

The April 23, 1987 Rio Grande Herald stated, “Falcon said that Alaniz was shot after a very brief discussion with the alleged slayer. The sheriff indicated that the gunman drew a weapon, apparently a 9-millimeter handgun, and fired at least four times.”

According to the 1987 Herald article, Falcon indicated at the time that there were at least a couple of eyewitnesses to the shooting.



The most severe Arctic cold front in several years, perhaps in over a decade, dropped temperatures in Starr County into the low 20’s on Saturday morning and the middle 20’s on Sunday morning.

KRGV-Channel 5 reported that a low temperature of 21 degrees for Rio Grande City was reported on Saturday morning. Channel 5 also indicated that Rio Grande City reported a low temperature of 25 degrees on Sunday morning.

The Arctic blast first blew into Starr County during the mid-morning hours on Thursday, Jan. 7, dropping temperatures from the 60’s into the low 40’s by the late evening hours. After Friday’s low fell into the middle 30’s, high temperatures that day did not climb out of the high 30’s. Gusty northerly winds early Friday morning caused the chill factor to be significantly lower than the actual temperature.

The Rio Grande City Fire Department recorded the following high and low temperatures: Thursday, Jan. 7- high 55, low 34; Friday, Jan. 8- high 55, low 21; Saturday, Jan. 9- high 52, low 21; Sunday, Jan. 10- high 58, low 24.

NRCS District Conservationist Arturo Ibarra told The Rio Grande Herald on Monday afternoon, “The first freeze we had in December had already frozen the grass. The grass that was coming back was set back (by last week’s hard freeze), but most of it was still in a dormant stage. I don’t see it being anywhere close to the 1983 or 1989 freezes.”

Ibarra added, “It’s too soon to tell about the citrus. I don’t think the trees sustained any damage.”

A Rio Grande City Fire Department official indicated that there were no serious disruptions such as power outages or utility line breakages in the immediate Rio Grande City area during the Arctic outbreak.

It is possible that Saturday morning’s low temperatures were the coldest seen in Starr County in roughly two decades.

Prior to the front’s arrival on Thursday, temperatures were cooler than normal. The RGC Fire Department recorded the following temperature readings: Monday, Jan. 4- high 59, low 41; Tuesday, Jan. 5- high 55, low 41; Wednesday, Jan. 6- high 69, low 48.

Monday, January 11, 2010


After a minor three-vehicle accident on Tuesday, Dec. 22, the Rio Grande City Police Department seized almost 2300 pounds of marijuana from a van sporting bogus Direc TV insignia.

Rio Grande City Assistant Police Chief Noe Castillo indicated on Monday, Jan. 4, “No arrests were made. The Rio Grande City Police Department is continuing its investigation.”

Castillo emphasized, “That was not a legitimate Direc TV vehicle. It was phony insignia on the van.”

Castillo stated, “When officers searched the van, they found almost 2300 pounds of marijuana. The exact total was 2294.5 pounds of marijuana wrapped in 97 cellophane bundles.”

“At approximately 12:10 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 22, a Direc TV van was headed eastbound on U.S. 83,” declared the Assistant Chief. “That vehicle and two others were involved in an accident…The accident occurred at the intersection of Aguirre and U.S. 83, or in front of Lone Star Bank.”

Castillo noted, “A pickup was the only one of the three vehicles involved (in the accident) to remain at the scene. One of the other two parties besides the Direc TV van reported the mishap. It was a minor accident.”

After the accident, stated Castillo, “The Direc TV van made a U-turn and tried to go west on U.S. 83. The Direc TV vehicle stalled because of damage to one of its tires. Officers arriving at the scene saw that the van had been abandoned near the H & R Block office.”

The Assistant Chief continued, “When officers arrived, they detected the strong smell of marijuana. Witnesses had seen a male subject fleeing the scene, walking in an eastbound direction.”

Castillo indicated that at this time, investigation of this incident remains under the jurisdiction of the RGCPD. He noted that the RGCPD is continuing to investigate the episode. He stressed that the van “was not a legitimate Direc TV vehicle.”


Federal authorities are now investigating the seizure of more than three tons of marijuana east of Rio Grande City on Friday afternoon, Dec. 4, with the episode resulting in the arrest of one man who listed a Florida address.

The arrest and seizure was carried out by a Starr County Sheriff’s Department deputy who stopped the 18-wheeler because the vehicle’s tail lights were not visible due to being dirty.

Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Guillermo Pena noted, “The case has been transferred to the jurisdiction (at the federal level) of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).”

Pena noted, “The incident happened on Friday, Dec. 4 at 1:19 p.m. on U.S. 83 adjacent to Las Brisas Road east of Rio Grande City. The vehicle, an 18-wheeler, was stopped because the taillight could not be seen.”

Pena indicated that once the interior of the 18-wheeler was searched, 475 bundles of marijuana weighing 6350.53 pounds were discovered.

The Chief Deputy stated, “No charges were filed locally; the case is now under the jurisdiction of the U.S. government.”

Neil Castro, 38, the driver of the 18-wheeler, was taken into custody. He had an ID on his person that identified him as being a resident of Naples, Florida.

The drugs and vehicle were also turned over to the custody of federal authorities.


The swearing-in of Rose Benavidez on Thursday afternoon, Nov. 19 as the new South Texas College trustee from Starr County was hailed by local dignitaries and STC leaders as an event that shows a ongoing and constant emphasis on continued strengthening of the college’s educational vitality.

Rose Benavidez is the daughter of the late Manuel Benavidez, Jr., who represented Starr County on the STC board from 1993 until his death in March 2009.

The swearing-in ceremony took place in the Auditorium of the STC Starr County Campus in Rio Grande City on Thursday, Nov. 19 at 5:00 p.m.

The oath of office was administered by Starr County Judge Eloy Vera. He stressed, “We thank the Benavidez family for sharing Manuel with us, and we thank you now for sharing Rose with us.”

Vera added, “This is a very special day for Starr County. She is a hard worker who gets things done and will get things done in this position. I know it means a lot for her to fill her father’s position.”

After being sworn in, Rose Benavidez commented, “This is an example of what the Starr County community thinks of South Texas College. The community continues to consider it vital that the mission of STC in Starr County gets done.”

She added, “I first contemplated this six or seven months ago. This is the beginning of a lot of hard work. I thank my family and my colleagues. I hope to leave my own footprint. I feel my knowledge from the past will be helpful.”

STC President Dr. Shirley Reed told Benavidez, “We look forward to working with you. We look forward to working to improve the lives of our students and our community.”

STC trustee Gary Gurwitz declared, “Manuel and I were the last of the original trustees. I knew he would only ask for something that he felt the people of Starr County truly needed.”

STC Board of Trustees President Mike Allen emphasized, “She has always shown the ability to connect business and jobs with education.” Starr County Industrial Foundation President Sam Vale stressed, “Rose has been focused on this (linking education with business) from the beginning.”

Bonnie Gonzalez commented, “It floors me when I see the growth in Starr County. Rose Benavidez is an integral part of what we are today and what we will be tomorrow. She is very well-versed on what the challenges are and the possible solutions.” Gonzalez is CEO of Workforce Solutions for Starr, Hidalgo and Willacy Counties.

“Growth comes through hard work, persistence and dedication,” insisted Rio Grande City Mayor Ruben O. Villarreal. “All of these traits are embodied in Rose Benavidez. She is determined to make difficult or unlikely projects work. I know that with her, success is assured for STC.”

As the ceremony concluded, Benavidez stressed, “Your belief that I am the right person for this position will forever be appreciated.”

Benavidez will serve the remaining two-plus years of the unexpired term left vacant by the passing of Manuel Benavidez, Jr. In their entirety, STC trustee terms cover a period of six years.


The Starr County Sheriff’s Department is continuing to investigate the cause and circumstances of the death of a woman whose badly decomposed body was found in the Las Lomas area on Thursday morning, Nov. 6.
Sheriff’s Department Captain Larry Fuentes declared that the decomposed body was found on the north end of Las Lomas Subidivision, in a wooded area near Doria and Garza Streets. He noted, “The body was found about 25 yards off of the roadway of Doria Street.”
Fuentes explained on Monday, Nov. 9, “At this time, all we know is that trauma to the head could be a possible cause of death. Apparently the woman had been dead for three to six weeks.”
“The body could not be identified,” he noted, “The body was wearing female underwear…The age of the victim could not be determined by the condition of the body. It will require DNA testing to identify the body.”
Fuentes indicated that the woman was pronounced dead by Justice of the Peace Ramon De La Cruz. An autopsy was performed by Elizondo’s Embalming.
Fuentes stressed that anyone with information about the woman and her death is strongly encouraged to contact the Sheriff’s Department at 487-5571. All information will be kept confidential.