It is unlikely that any of the spring breakers enjoying at a beach in Texas expected a decapitated corpse to wash up ashore.
However, the discovery of the dead body in March this year near South Padre Island started a chain of investigation, which two days ago led to the arrest of a US Border Patrol Agent Joel Luna.
The deceased man who had been mutilated indicating cartel-style violence was Franklin Rodríguez Palacio Paz an immigrant in the US from Honduras.
What was Luna’s role?
Authorities say they have enough reason to believe that Luna has links with a Mexican drug cartel and have charged him with being a part of methodical criminal activity as well as corrupting evidence.
However, his exact role in Paz’ murder is still not known.
What is becoming increasingly clear is his involvement in drug-related activity.
According to the Cameron County sheriff Omar Lucio, the accused had been using his position to bring drugs into the country via Mexico for the influential Gulf cartel.
He had been helping drug consignments go through the border patrol checkpoints in Jim Hogg County.
A search revealed that the 30-year-old was in possession of more than a kilogram of cocaine, 17 grams of methamphetamine, two pistols and $ 90,000 in cash. He had stored these items in a safe at his mother-in-law’s residence.
He also owned other weapons which were found at his home.
Initially he faced only drug charges and the murder allegation was added later on.
Why wasn’t he charged earlier?
When Luna was employed in 2009, the Federal Anti-Border Corruption Act of 2010 had not yet been implemented.
It makes background checks and polygraph test compulsory for border agents.
An academic, Rosalva Resendiz – professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley says it is not uncommon for cartels to pressurize US citizens to take up jobs that will make it easier to smuggle drugs across the border.
However, Lucio argues such fraud is somewhat exceptional. At the same time he does admit that “one or two is too many”.
What do we know so far about the murder?
Thirty-three-year-old Paz was a worker at a tire shop in Edinburg, Texas. He worked alongside four other men; two of these were Luna’s family, his brothers Eduardo Luna Rodríguez and Fernando Luna Rodríguez.
All four men were arrested for murder.
Authorities believe the outlet was just a facade; in fact, behind the scenes it was a drug packaging operation.