Remembrance to mark 25th anniversary of Leon Laureles murder

Steve Nash
Brownwood Bulletin
The May 12, 1996 edition of the Brownwood Bulletin reported on the Leon Laureles murder.

Nearly 25 years ago, 30-year-old Leon Laureles of Bangs was found shot to death near his burning vehicle off FM 2126.

Laureles’ May 10, 1996 murder has not been solved.

His niece, Arlene Harbison of San Angelo, is helping organize a remembrance for her uncle on May 15, a Saturday, near the gun range on FM 2126 — the area where Laureles’ body was found.

Friends and family members will have the opportunity to share their memories of Laureles, who worked the graveyard shift as an assistant manager at the Kroger store when he was murdered.

The remembrance will begin at 1 p.m. and is expected to last about an hour, Harbison said by phone.

“We’ll try to do a live stream,” Harbison said. “Purple was his favorite color so we’re going to try to have some purple balloons.”

Harbison said she and Laureles — who was just a couple of years older than her — grew up in Brady.

She said her uncle lived with her for awhile before moving in with his older brother, where he was living when he was murdered.

“He had just turned 30 that January,” Harbison said. “He was a really big guy, but he was pretty shy. He was more like just a gentle giant teddy bear. He was very caring and giving. He would always buy all of his co-workers birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, take them shopping, take them out to eat. 

“All of his co-workers say that he was just a very nice guy. He was kind of soft spoken. He loved music and dancing and cooking.”

When Laureles was younger, he had cared for his parents before their deaths in the 1980s, Harbison said.

“So he didn’t have a normal childhood or couldn’t be a normal teenager because he had to take care of his parents, take them to doctors’ appointments, pick up their prescriptions, and do all of that, the housecleaning and cooking,” Harbison said.

“When his parents both passed away, that’s when he moved in with me and he took care of my kids while I worked during the day and he worked the graveyard shift. He lived with me a couple of years and then he moved in with his older brother, George Laureles. He lived in Bangs and that’s when he started trying to find himself, started trying to find out what he liked to do and just be a normal person that lives for himself and not for parents any more. He started going out and making new friends.” 

In 2007, then-Brown County Sheriff Bobby Grubbs tasked his investigators with taking a fresh look at the unsolved case. The Texas Rangers cold case squad also began investigating. But no arrests were made.

In 2008, a sheriff’s investigator described the case as “a jigsaw puzzle with multiple pieces.”

According to the May 10, 1996 edition of the Bulletin, a motorist made a 9-1-1 call at 12:30 a.m. 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, 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. and was due to be at work at Kroger at midnight, Smith said.