A promise kept: Daughter waits 20 years for justice in father’s death

A collage of Dario Salmon and his daughter Monica Salmon. (Courtesy photos)

Before Monica Salmon’s paternal grandfather died, she made a promise to see the people who killed her father, Dario Salmon, in 2001, brought to justice.

After 20 years of living with questions from an unsolved murder, Salmon feels she might finally be able to keep her promise.

On Monday, Starr County Special Crimes Unit investigators announced a break in the case with evidence that sat unused for 17 years.

Cmdr. Robert Caples said a Texas Department of Public Safety crime lab in 2004 matched the DNA found on a cigarette at the crime scene with a man, Luis Carlos Mares, serving time for a different crime. None of the investigators at the time, however, followed up on the lead.

Mares told investigators, who visited him at state penitentiary this year, he was one of three people involved in the murder, but he also told them he had shared the information in 2004 with the district attorney, Heriberto Silva, at the time.

The person Mares claimed killed Salmon, Joe Bazan, was shot, burned and killed in 2005. Another woman, Betty Guerra, was romantically linked to Bazan and Salmon. Bazan blamed Salmon, who struggled with drug addiction, for Guerra’s own drug addiction. That was what motivated the murder, Mares told investigators.

He also insisted the information was shared years ago with authorities.

“Mares insisted in his statement that he had provided the details of Dario Salmon’s murder to 229th District Attorney in 2004 who had traveled to Laredo to interview him in person while he was in custody for a different offense,” the affidavit read. “Defendant Mares states that the information was then leaked to the Texas Mexican Mafia which had very strong ties to the District Attorney, other elected officials, and investigators.”

The news upset Monica Salmon.

“I am more mad at Mr. Silva than I am at Mr. Mares,” she said. “I’m more angry at him [Silva] than Mr. Mares, even though Mr. Mares was a gangbanger and was there and is an accessory to murder.”

Salmon asks that Silva talk to investigators and give a statement for her and her family’s sake. When reached for comment, Silva said he would be meeting with County Attorney Victor Canales, who oversees the Special Crimes Unit, next week. He refrained from providing a statement until then.

Commander Caples said any misconduct related to the handling of the investigation would not likely lead to a criminal offense.

For Monica Salmon, the fight to know the truth is personal.

Salmon was more than a victim who struggled with addiction. To her, he was a caring father who made time to see her after he lost shared custody.

The last time she saw her dad was when he went to go watch her try out for the soccer team in middle school.

“I just smiled and I told him, ‘I’m running late. I can’t run late because I’m going to get in trouble with the coach,” Monica Salmon said.

Those were the last words she spoke to him before his murder a week later.

“He did not get to see me graduate. He did not see me get to go to the police academy. He did not see me get married. He’s never going to see me have kids. That hurts.”

Salmon was grateful for the work of current investigators with the Special Crimes Unit and said she remains hopeful to find closure and keep her promise to her grandfather.

“I am the daughter of Dario Salmon. I’m his voice, and he lives through me.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated with the full version.