A little more than 12 years ago, 29-year-old Juan Leon Laureles of Bangs was found shot to death near his burning 1988 Ford Thunderbird off FM 2126.
The crime has not been solved, but people with information are talking, less concerned about retaliation now than they were when Laureles was murdered on May 10, 1996, sheriff’s officials said.
Investigators have have recently developed “some subjects of interest,” Sheriff Bobby Grubbs said. Sheriff’s officials are still asking anyone who knows anything about Laureles’ murder to contact authorities - either the sheriff’s office at 646-5510, or Crime Stoppers, 646-TIPS.
“We are focusing our investigation on these subjects,” Grubbs said. “I feel like we are progressing in this but we need additional information to bring closure to the investigation.
“We’ve been able to develop some information that wasn’t initially brought forward. We’ve got some new information.”
Grubbs said calling the people “persons of interest” doesn’t mean they’re suspects. He declined to elaborate.
Grubbs asked then-investigator Jimmy Simpson to focus on the case in 2007. Because of the familiarity and leads Simpson developed, Grubbs kept Simpson on the case after Simpson became patrol sergeant.
The Texas Rangers cold case squad is also investigating.
Simpson said the case is “a jigsaw puzzle with multiple pieces,” and he began getting good leads in May 2007.
“There were persons of interest that the sheriff directed me toward, to either get them eliminated as persons of interest or go forward,” Simpson said. “They have not been able to be eliminated as persons of interest in this case. They are the focal point of the investigation.”
Laureles’ brother, George, said he spoke with Grubbs Friday about the investigation.
“I’m just hoping to have it solved one day, and hoping it will be soon,” George Laureles, 55, of Bangs, said. “We’ve been waiting a long time for this. … I don’t think it’s a case that cannot be solved. It’s very hard, but we’ve got to keep hoping.”
George Laureles said Leon had told their sister a short time before he was killed that “certain people were mad at him. He said he did not know why.”
Grubbs was a Texas Ranger when Laureles was killed, and he investigated the case along with sheriff’s officials.
According to the May 10, 1996 edition of the Bulletin, a motorist made a 9-1-1 call at 12:30 that morning to report a burning vehicle off FM 2126, also known as the Access Road. Firefighters and deputies responded, and as the fire was being extinguished, Leon Laureles’ body was discovered a few feet away.
He had been shot in the back of the head, then-Chief Deputy Glen Smith told the Bulletin.
Laureles had left his home six miles west of Brownwood at around 11:30 p.m. the night before, and was due at his work at Kroger at midnight, Smith said.