On July 15, 2003, the partially clothed body of 21-year-old Cynthia Joann Palacio was found on the side of a desolate county road in Lubbock County, Texas.
Now a man has been charged with allegedly murdering the young mother.
On Friday, 17 years after Palacio was killed, Lubbock County Sheriff Kelly Rowe announced that authorities had arrested Andy Castillo, 57, and charged him with murder in Palacio’s slaying.
Castillo was served with a first-degree murder warrant in McLennan County Jail, where he is being held on unrelated charges including criminal solicitation of aggravated sexual assault of a child and stalking after he allegedly left lewd messages for local real estate agents threatening to rape their children, the Waco Tribune-Herald, local station 11 Alive and Lubbock Online News report.
“One of our duties in law enforcement is to pursue every lead and seek justice for victims and their families, even when the case runs cold,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw, 11Alive reports. “I’m proud of the diligent efforts by the Texas Rangers and the Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office to solve this nearly two-decade-old case and find justice for a young woman who was brutally murdered.”
McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara said, “A lot of women have been victimized by this creep,” 11 Alive reports.
Castillo’s arrest came after a DNA sample he agreed to submit after his January arrest allegedly tied him to Palacio’s murder, Lubbock Online News reports.
According to a Lubbock County arrest warrant released Friday, DNA evidence that was collected during an autopsy from Palacio’s thigh, under her nails, on her clothing, and on a necklace she was found wearing allegedly matched Castillo’s DNA, Lubbock Online News reports.
The Texas Rangers who reviewed the DNA analysis said they believed “there is probable cause Andy Castillo murdered victim Cynthia Palacio by strangulation, which resulted in the transfer of DNA from Castillo to the necklace of Palacio,” the warrant states, according to Lubbock Online News.
Until then, Castillo wasn’t a suspect or even a person of interest in Palacio’s murder.
“I don’t think he initially hit the radar screen,” Rowe said during the press conference.
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Authorities are also investigating whether Castillo may have killed other women, including Palacio’s roommate, Linda Carbajal, also 21, whose body was found on a remote county road near New Deal on April 19, 2004. Like Palacio, she had been strangled.
DNA evidence showed that the two murders were linked, authorities said at the time, 11 Alive reports.
Now, said Rowe, “If we’re able to confirm that through the same type of DNA test that we were able to do with Ms. Palacio, then it will be, we will make that announcement and file those charges.”
In 2003, Palacio's mother, Rosa Palacio, told the Avalanche-Journal that she had no idea why anyone would want to hurt her daughter, who doted upon her own 2-year-old daughter.
“I just want to know why,” Rosa said.
Castillo remains held in McLennan County Jail on a $1.5 million bond.
He is expected to be extradited to Lubbock to stand trial.
He has not yet entered a plea. It is unclear whether he has retained an attorney who can speak on his behalf.
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