The first of three men accused of the November murder of a Weslaco doctor appeared in court Wednesday to face charges of murder and aggravated robbery.
Alamo resident Joel Ismael Gonzalez, 18, entered not guilty pleas to the charges, court records show.
Gonzalez, 19-year-old Weslaco resident Luis Antonio Lopez Valenzuela and 31-year-old Alamo resident Josue Benavides Torres were all charged with murder and aggravated robbery.
The men are accused of shooting and killing Dr. John Dominguez on Nov. 7, 2019, during an alleged attempt to steal $25,000 they believed he kept in a briefcase in his care, according to probable cause affidavits.
At first, it appeared Dominguez, who was found after a two-vehicle collision on Business 83 in Weslaco, had died in a crash.
“While at the crash scene, witnesses to the shooting lead police to where the shooting occurred,” the charging document stated.
Surveillance video released by the Weslaco Police Department after the shooting shows Dominguez leaving his business when another vehicle attempts to block him in and a man, who appears to have a gun, starts shooting.
But in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, no one was taken into custody.
Approximately two months later, a deputy in Runnels County, Texas, which is near San Angelo, began an investigation that would lead Weslaco homicide investigators to the trio.
A probable cause affidavit there details how Runnels County sheriff’s deputies opened an investigation after someone chased down a Dark Blue Sonata driven by Eduardo Torres, who law enforcement officials later determined is the alleged shooter’s brother.
The person chased down Torres because he had allegedly assaulted and robbed his coworkers of $12,500. The person suspected this because they used to work with Torres and recognized his voice, according to the charging document.
“This person finds Torres and crashes into the Dark Blue Sonata, disabling the vehicle while Torres and his girlfriend Emily Hinojosa flee the scene on foot,” a probable cause affidavit stated.
The investigation would eventually reveal that that Dark Blue Sonata was the same vehicle in the surveillance video released by the Weslaco Police Department showing the murder, police say.
A witness told Runnels Sheriff deputies that Torres was hiding the vehicle because it had been used in the shooting, according to the charging document.
Torres is Gonzalez’s brother and Gonzalez is accused of shooting the Weslaco doctor, authorities say.
As for motive, Weslaco Police Chief Joel Rivera said during a Jan. 6 press conference that Benavidez had received information from a “curandero” about Dominguez and masterminded the robbery.
“Benavides states that he was approached to secure this money by some force using threats of exposure to prior bad acts he committed with the person that contracted him, identified by Benavides as [redacted],” the charging document stated. “Benavides states he recruits both Joel Gonzalez and the Driver, who he identifies as Luis, to be the ones to make contact with the Doctor and extort the money from him by force.”
As for Gonzalez, police say he believed he would earn $40,000.
All of the men remain jailed.
Benavides, however, is in federal custody after authorities accused him of violating his probation for a 1,000-plus marijuana trafficking conviction from nearly a decade ago.