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Brownsville man arrested in Edinburg massacre

By LYNN BREZOSKY

Friday, January 17, 2003

Associated Press Writer

EDINBURG, Texas (AP) - Bond was set at $18 million Friday for a Brownsville man charged with capital murder in the horrific Jan. 5 raid that left a half-dozen men dead in a hail of gunfire.

Marcial Bocanegra, 25, was charged with six counts of capital murder and held on bonds of $3 million for each count. Bocanegra was arraigned Friday afternoon.

It was the first arrest in what many law enforcement officials have described as the most violent crime in the Rio Grande Valley in recent memory. The arrest was a sign that more light will be shed on a bold crime that Edinburg Police Chief Quirino Munoz said appeared to be "sending a message."

A week after the crime, police said they had so few clues that they were offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to a conviction. Munoz said the arrest was not a result of the reward.

The shooting victims were found dead in and around two ramshackle houses that shared a lot in this semirural community about 15 miles from the Mexican border.

Only Rosie Ramos, mother of two victims, survived the attack. Minutes afterward, Rosie Ramos freed herself from the electrical wiring the assailants tied her up in and made the initial call to 911.

Ramos told police that men stormed into her home and another house on her semirural lot with demands for drugs, money, and guns. She was made to face a wall while her son, 24-year-old Jerry Hidalgo, was shot to death.

From noises Ramos said she heard in the second house, a ramshackle single story structure where her sons and friends hung out, there were as many as five assailants. Ramos told police at least one assailant wore a ski mask and a jacket with "police" on it, leading investigators initially to label it a "pseudo cop" incident.

Police arrived to find five bodies, strewn in and outside that second house.

The dead included Hidalgo's brother Ray, 30; brothers Juan Delgado Jr., 32, and Juan Delgado III, 20; Ruben Rolando Castillo, 32; and Jimmy Armendariz, 22. Preliminary autopsy reports revealed that some victims were killed by a single bullet, others by many. Investigators at the scene said some victims were not recognizable as a result of the gunshots.

The smaller structure was known as a hangout where the Hidalgo brothers and their friends would drink beer and hold cookouts.

Munoz would say little about the investigation or whether more arrests were imminent.

"Basically, we've been working round the clock since this matter got reported to us," he said.

The arrest in a cul-de-sac of modest homes in Brownsville was made by about a dozen plainclothes police officers, who took the suspect away in handcuffs. Munoz said the arrest was made with the assistance of the Brownsville Police Department and was the result of an exhaustive investigation involving several law enforcement agencies.

"We've conducted numerous searches in different places and many interviews," he said. "Our detectives and officers worked over 1,000 hours. We've dedicated telephone lines to this investigation and have offered rewards."

Two women in the house with the suspect also were detained for questioning.

The murder scene is about 15 miles from the Mexican border, raising speculation about ties with border drug rings and that some assailants may have fled to Mexico.

While investigators at the scene said there was evidence of drug use in the second house, Munoz has said it is premature to link the murders to any specific motive and that possibilities included drugs, money, revenge or a premeditated hit.

The crime has similarities to a September attack in nearby Donna in which six Mexican women were gunned down in a car. Two women survived.

Munoz described the stream of bullets in both attacks as "overkill" and said police from the cities have compared notes.

Rachel Hartman, a 20-year-old student who had been living with Armendariz, said she suspected the attack had something to do with drugs.

"I think it had to have been something out of revenge and getting rid of competition," she said.

Armendariz rarely went to the house, Hartman said.

"If he just wouldn't have been there ... ," she said in a telephone interview before bursting into tears. "It's not fair, he was too young."

Edinburg is about 220 miles south of San Antonio.

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