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McAllen police: Man paid for sex before woman died

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Posted: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 11:29 am, Fri Jun 14, 2013.

McALLEN — A man who last saw a McAllen woman before she was found dead was formally charged Tuesday with soliciting a prostitute.

David Zandres was formally charged on the misdemeanor charge after McAllen police detained him as a person of interest in the death of a 55-year-old woman, whose body was found Sunday afternoon in a downtown alley.

Investigators believe Zandres was the last person to see Thelma Rico alive after she left La Cabaña III bar, 311 S. Bicentennial Blvd., about 2 a.m. Sunday.

Autopsy and toxicology reports from Rico’s body have not been returned, leaving her suspected cause of death a mystery to police, which is why Zandres was not levied a more serious charge.

Rico was found naked from the waist down in an alley around the corner from the downtown cantina that she had left about closing time early Sunday morning, police said.

Zandres told police he paid Rico to have sex, though McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez said he refused to label her as a prostitute.

“This is the last person around the deceased woman and by his own admission it places him in her area, and they were performing a sexual act as solicitation of prostitution charges,” the chief said. “I’m not saying that the person is a prostitute.”

Witnesses told police they last saw Rico with Zandres early Sunday morning. But what caused Rico’s death remains unclear.

Rico’s body showed no obvious signs of trauma after police began investigating her death early Sunday afternoon.

“The investigation is by no means complete and one of the bigger parts of this obviously is the results of the autopsy,” Rodriguez said.

A McAllen municipal judge set Zandres’ bond at $500 on the class B misdemeanor charge, which carries a maximum sentence of 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Further charges may be lodged against Zandres, depending on the results of Rico’s autopsy, Rodriguez said.

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Jared Taylor covers courts and general assignments for The Monitor. He can be reached at jtaylor@themonitor.com and (956) 683-4439.

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