Child porn among charges police listed before triple homicide

The first page of a police report generated after 19-year-old Rebecca Lee Cantu complained to police that 57-year-old Saul Ramon Avila had been sexually assaulting her for five years contains six different sex charges.

Edinburg police believe Avila took his own life after murdering Rebecca Lee and her mother, Magdalena Cantu, 48, along with home healthcare provider Aaron Cortez, 30, four days after Rebecca Lee reported the allegations to police.

Avila was Magdalena’s boyfriend.

The first page of the report states the crimes started on Sept. 1, 2014, and lasted through Dec. 1, a little more than a week before the brutal murders at 301 W. Kuhn St.

The report doesn’t include any suspect names, but Police Chief Cesar Torres said last week that Rebecca Lee reported Avila’s alleged sexual abuse and that the young woman’s mother knew about the abuse and allowed it.

The charges on the report include continuous sexual abuse of a child, sexual assault, possession or promotion of lewd visual material of a child, sexual performance by child, possession of child pornography, indecency with a child by contact and failure to report a felony.

The Monitor requested the report in its entirety, but the city of Edinburg only released the first page of the report, stating that it relied on a previous attorney general ruling prohibiting the release of information that would interfere with the detection, investigation or prosecution of a crime.

The newspaper has filed a second request, which will require the city of Edinburg to seek an attorney general’s ruling.

The additional charges had not been mentioned by authorities when Torres named Avila as the suspect and provided more information about what transpired between Dec. 6, when Rebecca Lee went to the police department, and Dec. 11, when Rebecca Lee, Magdalena and Cortez’s bodies were discovered.

A toddler was also found unharmed that day. Torres said that the boy belonged to Rebecca Lee and that Avila is the father, though confirmation is pending a DNA test.

Torres also said that Rebecca Lee did not want to press charges against Avila.

“On that same date (Dec. 6) after she left the police department an officer calls Magdalena to ask her (Rebecca) to return to the police department so that we can continue the investigation and fill out a complaint so we can make an arrest,” Torres said.

Later that day, police reached Rebecca, who agreed to come back to the police department by 5 p.m., Torres said.

“We waited for Rebecca a few minutes after 5 o’ clock and she never returned and she never called us back,” Torres said.

The following Monday, the chief said investigators called Rebecca Lee several more times.

“On Monday, our Criminal Investigations Division persisted on calling her several times and it appears that her cellphone was off and there was no answer,” Torres said. “We were not able to leave voicemail messages. Her mailbox was full, and the very next day was when this occurred.”

How Avila found out about the allegations Rebecca Lee made isn’t immediately clear.

“We are not sure if Magdalena or Rebecca told someone else or told him. We don’t know that. We don’t have that information,” Torres said.

The chief added that Avila made an irate call to Magdalena’s sister about the allegations and also called his sister about the police report.

Torres said no one from his department contacted Avila about the accusations.

Rebecca Lee died from a gunshot wound to the head and a stab wound to the neck.

Magdalena died from stab wounds to the neck.

Cortez died from gunshot wounds to his head and neck.

mreagan@themonitor.com