Starr Co. homicide suspect has long criminal history

The suspect in the Saturday night shooting death of a 26-year-old woman in Starr County has a history of alleged violent crimes, including charges similar to what may have led to the woman’s death, court records showed.

Ismael Mares Jr. was arrested Sunday on an outstanding state parole warrant following the homicide of Valeria Salinas.

Salinas, whose identity was confirmed by the 229th Judicial District Attorney Omar Escobar, had no known connection to the suspect.

Mares, 41, has an extensive criminal history dating back to 1997 that includes charges of burglary of vehicle, aggravated assault, burglary of habitation, and aggravated assault of a public servant.

In October 2009, he was indicted on a charge of attempted murder, stemming from an incident in March 2008 in which he allegedly stabbed a woman in an attempt to burglarize her home.

However, the charge was dismissed in April 2010 after he pleaded guilty to the burglary charge stemming from that incident and to the assault of a public servant charge.

Escobar, who was an assistant district attorney at the time, said the victim in that case initially identified a person other than Mares from a lineup as the burglar, which made the case highly suspect.

For his guilty plea to those two charges, Mares was sentenced to 15 years with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and was eligible for parole in May 2017, though Escobar said the district attorney’s office requested he not be granted parole.

A TDCJ document detailing his eligibility for parole indicated Mares was affiliated with the Mexican Mafia under the “security threat group” category in the document.

In March 2019, he was charged with causing bodily injury to a woman stemming from an incident in May 2018, according to the complaint.

Little is known of the circumstances surrounding Saturday’s homicide in the El Chaparral Subdivision, east of Rio Grande City.

However, Escobar said that from the initial investigation, it appears it was likely a burglary that turned into a homicide.

According to a news release from the Starr County Sheriff’s office, deputies found Salinas lying face down in the living room of her home surrounded by a puddle of blood and with an apparent gunshot wound to her head.

Justice of the Peace Eloy Zarate Jr. pronounced her dead at approximately 1 a.m. on April 21 and ordered an autopsy.

Investigators executed a search warrant on Sunday and recovered evidence that will be submitted for testing to the Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Laboratory.

The Starr County Sheriff’s office, the Texas Rangers and the district attorney’s office continue to work on the case, Escobar said, searching nearby areas for possible surveillance videos.

Several casings of a .22 caliber weapon were already recovered, according to the release, though no motive has been established.

Though it appears to be a capital murder, Escobar said his office is waiting for the conclusion of the investigation and results from the DPS crime lab before those charges are officially filed against Mares.

“He’s going to be held without bond, in any case, because of his parole warrant,” Escobar said, noting the term of his parole ends in November 2024.

“He is not expected to be released any time soon.”