Harlingen police work to connect suspect to human remains

SAN BENITO — Behind Joe Martinez’s backyard, Harlingen police are investigating whether his cousin Anthony Eliff might have buried human remains a Corpus Christi woman prays aren’t those of her missing daughter.

Earlier this month, a tip led investigators to skeletal remains found in a wooden area behind Martinez’s home and business in the 1200 block of Business 77, where he says he doesn’t want his cousin to return.

In Corpus Christi, Rosie Loera says she last saw her daughter Elyn Loera, 32, after she boarded a bus for Harlingen to visit Eliff in September.

“They’re doing their investigation to try to determine if they are linked,” Sgt. Larry Moore said Monday, referring to Eliff and the skeletal remains. “That’s what they’re working on. There’s been no determination.”

Harlingen police Commander David Osborne has said he’s investigating whether the remains could be those of Elyn Loera, but he hasn’t said he’s connected Eliff to her disappearance.

Meanwhile, investigators have found a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol they believe Eliff used to kill Guillermo Garcia, 41, after searching another of his relative’s properties in Harlingen.

On Feb. 6, officers found Garcia shot to death in a parked car.

In San Benito, Martinez said he hadn’t seen Eliff, who didn’t pay his father money owed on a car.

“My dad financed him a car and he hadn’t paid it,” Martinez said. “That’s why I didn’t want him around. I didn’t get along with him. I didn’t want him around here. He had been to jail, and he’d done a lot of years. He was in Corpus for the last couple of years and he just came down.”

Martinez said he didn’t know how the remains believed to be three or four months old could have gotten behind his backyard.

“I feel horrible that something happened,” Martinez said. “I wish I was more vigilant.”

Martinez said he’s cooperating with officers as they investigate the case.

“I talked to the police officers and told them everything I knew — that I didn’t get along with him,” he said, referring to Eliff. “I know they’re still investigating that stuff. Everything will come out in time.”

In Harlingen, investigators used a warrant to search the property of another of Eliff’s relatives who lives near Throckmorton Street, where they found a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol in an alleyway on Feb. 18, Moore said.

“I t was through their investigative efforts that they were able to get a search warrant for that residence,” he said.

Investigators, he said, believe Eliff used to pistol to shoot Garcia, who they found with a gunshot to his chest at about 10 p.m. Feb. 6.

Officers had responded to a call about a man shot in the 3300 block of Adams Landing in Harlingen.

Moore said investigators are trying to determine the motive behind the murder.

On Feb. 7, police arrested Eliff, 44, charging him with Garcia’s murder.

A judge set Eliff’s bail at $1.9 million for the murder charge, and $40,000 for a charge of possession of a controlled substance.

On Feb. 10, a CrimeStoppers tip received following Eliff’s arrest led investigators to a brush-covered area behind Martinez’s home and business in the 1200 block of West Business 77 in San Benito.

By noon the next day, investigators had found partially exposed human remains which appeared to be about three to four months old, Moore said.

Moore said the remains were sent the University of North Texas’ forensics lab, where tests are expected to determine the sex of the person to whom they belong.

Experts are expected to try to use DNA tests to help determine the person’s identity.

Moore said some test results could take about six months to receive.

In Corpus Christi, Loera, a home health provider, says she reported her daughter’s disappearance to the Corpus Christi Police Department, which referred her to Harlingen police.

The police department, she said, told her officers needed a physical address to search for her daughter.

But she said her daughter wouldn’t tell her where she was staying.

Loera described her daughter as a mother of five children who had suffered a “nervous breakdown” after breaking up with her husband.

“A couple of months” before her disappearance, she said, her daughter met Eliff, later staying in his apartment.

fdelvalle@valleystar.com