DPS: Rangers investigating 2016 Starr Co. murders

Worshipers pray during Palm Sunday Mass as they remember Oneida Balderas-Garza and Lordes "Lulu" Elizondo at the Immaculate Conception Church Sunday, March 25, 2018, in Rio Grande City. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

Following questions about whether they were investigating a 2016 double homicide in Starr County, the Texas Department of Public Safety clarified Monday that the Texas Rangers — its investigative arm — are, in fact, leading the investigation.

Maria Montalvo, spokesperson for DPS, confirmed that the Rangers are indeed heading the case, which stems from the deaths of two employees of the Rio Grande City school district — Oneida Balderas Garza, 44, and Lourdes Elizondo, 33 — in March 2016.

The clarification came after The Monitor published a story Sunday reporting that DPS stated the Rangers were not the lead investigative agency in the double homicide. The agency’s statements were in response to a Monitor email specifically about the double homicide case.

In response, Montalvo had stated that DPS only assisted the Rio Grande City Police Department in the investigation and the Rangers were not the lead investigative agency.

Asked why its previous position was that DPS had assisted when the Rangers were indeed the lead investigative agency, Montalvo attributed as much to miscommunication in her response to The Monitor.

Montalvo had mistakenly believed she was responding to inquiries about the Chayse Olivarez case — the Rio Grande City teenager who was killed in 2017 — rather than the district employees’ deaths.

DPS was asked in the email in question whether allegations made during the Olivarez trial — such as Ignacio Garza, an alleged associate of Olivarez’s father, Casimiro Olivarez Sr., being questioned in the double homicide — were true, as well as whether the Rangers were leading the double homicide investigation and whether there was any new information to report, or if the case had gone cold.

The trial for Jose Luis Garcia Jr., one of the defendants in the Olivarez case, had just concluded at the time of the email exchange between Montalvo and The Monitor.

“In the email, there were two cases — the Olivarez and the double murder,” she said Monday. “Our Rangers were only assisting Rio Grande City PD with the Olivarez case; however, they are the lead investigating agency with the double homicide.”

The women were found murdered at Balderas Garza’s residence on the morning of March 23, 2016.

There have been no arrests so far and Montalvo said she could not comment Monday on any new developments, as the case was under active investigation.

Editor’s note: This story was updated with the full version at 8:05 p.m.