McAllen detectives say in probable cause affidavits that a 54-year-old man found dead Sept. 1 in an apartment had been restrained, assaulted and killed two days before investigators found his body.
Police say four men beat Ricky Dowal Etheridge to death on Aug. 29 over the theft of narcotics.
Late last week, McAllen investigators arrested 20-year-old Daniel Barker, 45-year-old Jose Luis Sanchez Jr. and 37-year-old Daniel Gilbert Garren, all of McAllen, and charged the men with murder.
Authorities are still looking for 47-year-old Rene Everett Casas, who has a warrant for murder.
Anyone with information about Casas’ whereabouts or the murder are asked to call McAllen Crime Stoppers at (956) 687-TIPS (8477). Tips can also be anonymously submitted through the smartphone app “P3 TIPS.” A cash reward may be available if information leads to an arrest.
The discovery of Etheridge’s body began with a welfare concern from the man’s girlfriend.
“McAllen Police Detectives had received information from the victm’s girlfriend indicating that she had not heard from her boyfriend, Ricky Etheridge. The girlfriend said she received a phone call from a friend of Ricky’s who told her that Ricky may have been beaten and shot,” a probable cause affidavit states.
The investigation led detectives to an apartment in the 1000 block of North 15th Street on Sept. 1 where investigators found a dead man, later identified as Etheridge.
As police investigated, they spoke with Sanchez, who lived in the residence directly in front of the crime scene.
“Mr. Sanchez told detectives the name of the tenant where the body was found. Mr. Sanchez also stated that he knew the names of several individuals that had been gathering at said apartment for the past several days,” according to the affidavit.
Detectives say Sanchez cooperated with the investigation and provided “a version” of what happened in the days leading up to Etheridge’s death.
“Mr. Sanchez named about three males that may have contributed to the assault, leading to the death of Mr. Etheridge. Mr. Sanchez told detectives that on Saturday, August 29, 2020, he distinctly recognized the voice of Mr. Etheridge coming from the 2nd floor where the deceased was found. He said Mr. Etheridge was screaming and believed that Mr. Etheridge was being assaulted,” a probable cause affidavit states.
Additionally, Sanchez told detectives he recognized the voice of the tenant of that apartment and saw two other men going in and out of the apartment, police say.
However, as detectives investigated they determined Sanchez “was not only a witness but a suspect,” who had had been trying to mislead them, the affidavit states.
“As the investigation gained more evidence against Mr. Sanchez, Mr. Sanchez, ultimately admitted his involvement of the restraint and assault that led to the death of Mr. Ricky Etheridge. All the subjects that were interviewed stated that the motive of the assault that led to the death of Mr. Etheridge was due to the theft of narcotics,” according to the probable cause affidavit.
Like Sanchez, police also accuse Garren of trying to mislead them.
Authorities say he told detectives the resident at the apartment where Etheridge’s body was found called him on Aug. 29, and Garren provided detecitves with the names of several people who had been gathering at the apartment for several days, the affidavit states.
Garren also cooperated and provided investigators with “a version” of what happened, but, like Sanchez, detectives determined Garren was not only a witness, but a suspect.
According to police, Garren ultimately admitted his involvement in the assault.
Garren is also charged with tampering with physical evidence, namely for removing planks of wood.
“Mr. Garren further admitted to destroying and concealing crucial pieces of evidence from the crime scene,” a probable cause affidavit states.
The first person arrested in the investigation, however, was Barker, according to jail records.
Detectives say that several involved parties and several subjects interviewed said Barker was involved in Etheridge’s death.
“The statements of several subjects and corroborating evidence revealed that on Saturday, August 29th, 2020, Mr. Barker assaulted Mr. Etheridge causing his death,” a probable cause affidavit states.
Investigators say Barker confessed.
“The investigation revealed that Mr. Barker had not acted alone and several suspects had also assaulted Mr. Etheridge,” according to the charging document.
Jail records show that Sanchez, Garren and Barker have been arrested multiple times.
Barker has been arrested nine times since 2017, mostly for marijuana offenses. Police last arrested him on June 30 for failure to identify a fugitive and possession of a controlled substance.
He bailed out on that charge on Aug. 26. In less than a week, Barker was back in jail and charged with murder.
Hidalgo County law enforcement has arrested Garren eight times, dating back to 2004. The majority of the charges against Garren are theft-related, though he does have two drug-related arrests, records show.
Sanchez has been arrested eight times since 2013, records show, and has faced charges of theft and possession of a controlled substance.
Casas, who remains a fugitive, also has a history of arrests.
Records show Casas has been arrested more than a dozen times since 1997, including multiple drug allegations.
Barker, Sanchez and Garren remain jailed on $1.5 million bonds on the murder charges they face. Garren has an additional $25,000 bond for tampering with physical evidence.
McAllen police have also arrested 59-year-old Michael Thomas McPhee and 48-year-old Saundra Sanchez, both of McAllen, in relation to the case.
Sanchez and McPhee are both charged with failure to report a felony. McPhee is also charged with tampering with physical evidence.