McAllen police charge off-duty Border Patrol agent with sexual assault

The McAllen Police Department arrested an off-duty Border Patrol agent Tuesday and charged him with sexual assault. Police arrested Roy Ramirez Jr., 22, on the charge and he received a $10,000 personal recognizance bond. He is accused of forcing one of his subordinates at work to perform oral sex on him, according to the probable cause affidavit for his arrest. Read the full story on our website.

As RGV celebrates Easter in isolation, Cowboy Priest asks ‘be humble and simple’

Wiglet and Bandito circle the altar of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church as Father Roy Snipes, Father Richard Philion and a handful of helpers prepare for the Good Friday service. On any normal celebration of Holy Week, the church would be filled to capacity with worshipers. But on this Good Friday, one of the biggest congregation days of the year for Christians, the church is empty save for the men of the cloth, Snipes’ beloved canine companions, and a couple of journalists. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Discarded gloves littering RGV parking lots raise concerns

Although facemasks are in such short supply that they’re being hoarded and stockpiled, disposable gloves, the other key component in a pandemic outfit, are being discarded carelessly in a way that some Rio Grande Valley officials say could cause a public health risk. Parking lots at supermarkets and businesses across the RGV are strewn with latex gloves, apparently being tossed onto the asphalt by shoppers when they return to their vehicle. The city of Edinburg addressed the littering on social media last week. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Valley jobless numbers edge up but bigger loss looms

Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate held steady at 3.5 percent in January as it continues its flirtation with record lows, the Texas Workforce Commission reported. All that may be about to change. The Texas economy added 279,900 seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs over the year, including 19,500 jobs added over the month for January. Annual employment growth for Texas was 2.2 percent in January, marking 117 consecutive months of annual growth. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Former Santa Rosa teacher to remain in custody

Former Santa Rosa High School teacher and coach Josue Cepeda appeared in court for a status hearing Thursday following his re-arrest at a hearing on alleged bond agreement violations in January. Attorneys for the state told 103rd state District Court Judge Janet Leal that the two pending cases against Cepeda had been dismissed and merged into a single case with an additional charge. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Detainee files complaint alleging lack of adequate medical care

An undocumented man with Parkinson’s disease has filed suit against a Willacy County ICE detention center and the private, for-profit prison contractor that manages the facility for failing to provide him with adequate access to medical care. Juan Carlos Lara-Arguelles filed the lawsuit in federal court in Brownsville earlier this month via correspondence from the Willacy County Regional Detention Facility in Raymondville. The complaint charges the facility, alongside Management and Training Corporation, with violating Lara-Arguelles’ federal constitutional rights by denying him access to quality healthcare throughout his incarceration. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Hidalgo Co. judge hosts interfaith congregation

Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez called on religious leaders from across various faiths to come together and lend spiritual support to the community through a virtual congregation Friday.  “Our people come from all over the world — we speak many languages, we look different, we practice different religions — but together we make up this wonderful community that we call the Rio Grande Valley,” Cortez said before giving seven religious leaders an opportunity to address the public via a Zoom video conference call. COVID-19 has caused a lot of pain, misery and suffering to a lot of people as businesses are forced to shut down, workers are prohibited from working, and more and more restrictions are imposed on people like never before, Cortez said. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Students celebrate Earth Day virtually

Members of the Environmental Awareness Club at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley decided that nothing — not even a stay-at-home order — would keep them from commemorating Earth Day. “No pandemic or any obstacle is going to stop us from highlighting and continuing our efforts as a club to raise awareness in the university and in our community of the need to take care of our planet,” said club historian Fatima Garza. “Climate change doesn’t know a pandemic.” Read the full story at themonitor.com

DA cites COVID-19 executive order in opposition to murder suspect receiving PR bond

A 40-year-old Elsa man accused of killing his father in 2017 walked out of jail Thursday on a $250,000 personal recognizance bond. Joseph Robert Nocar, who has steadfastly maintained his innocence in letters written to the court and to The Monitor, is charged with murder for the Oct. 24, 2017, death of 76-year-old Frederick Joseph Nocar, whose daughter found him lying in a pool of his own blood inside his Weslaco home. On Wednesday, state district Judge J.R. “Bobby” Flores granted Joseph Robert Nocar the personal recognizance bond. Jail records indicate the man was released Thursday. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Mexican man sentenced to time served in straw purchase case

A Mexican citizen received a sentence of  time-served in relation to federal firearm charges, records show. U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez handed down the sentence Thursday during the sentencing hearing for Jose Ventura De Leon-Fuentes. De Leon-Fuentes, 45, was accused of paying another man, Oscar Antonio Flores-Arriaga, a U.S. citizen, to buy firearms for him, despite not being legally eligible to obtain them himself, the complaint against the two men states. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Island unveils world record mesquite sea turtle sculpture

This coastal city is continuing to showcase its local marine life and artists through a variety of artwork displayed around the area. The city of South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) unveiled a world record mesquite sea turtle carving Monday afternoon at the Sea Ranch Restaurant. According to CVB personnel, the sculpture is a record-breaking tribute to South Padre Island’s sea turtles. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

‘You never move on’ – Three years later, Valley widow reflects on loss of...

There’s a room in Dora Hernandez’s home here that she calls her travel room. It’s easy to see why she calls it that. The room is filled with mementos from across the globe, pins from Hard Rock Cafes, books from different countries, maps, figurines, keychains.  Dora and her husband, Noe, collected most of the stuff while he was in the Navy. “Our goal was always, ‘Let’s get five souvenirs, because if something breaks, we’re not going back,’” Dora recalled. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

UTRGV to reopen auxiliary services on Monday

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley announced this week that Campus Auxiliary Service operations will begin reopening services on campus starting Monday. In an email sent to UTRGV students, the university confirmed changes implemented in order to keep students and employees safe. “Preventive measures will be exercised including use of face coverings/masks, washing of hands, social distancing with floor markings, plexiglass barriers, de-densification by reducing to 25% occupancy, increased cleaning and disinfection practices and contactless service,” the email stated. “Some services will be provided on an appointment basis such as access to University Recreation or meeting room space in the Student Union. Virtual services and activities will continue to be available throughout the summer. Modifications may be implemented as conditions permit.” Read the full story at themonitor.com

Man pleads guilty in cash smuggling case

A Mexican man accused of attempting to bypass reporting bulk cash requirements pleaded guilty to the offense during a hearing Tuesday, records show. Kevin Mohammed Tapia-Martinez, 22, pleaded true to one of the two charges he faces in connection with his arrest at a port of entry as he allegedly attempted to smuggle into Mexico a large quantity of bulk cash. On Feb. 21, Tapia, who told U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the port that he was coming from McAllen; and intended to travel into Mexico with his destination being Reynosa, Tamaulipas, was transferred for a secondary inspection. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Records: Woman accused of leaving puppy in hot car

McAllen police arrested a 24-year-old La Blanca woman Wednesday after they say she left a 4-month-old pit bull in a hot car without water while she shopped at H-E-B. Authorities have charged Kimberly Ayala with cruelty to non-livestock animals. A passerby shopping at the grocery store at 200 W. Expressway 83 told police she discovered the puppy inside a 2001 black four-door Oldsmobile that had its windows cracked, according to a probable cause affidavit. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Report: CBP struggled to meet detention standards for migrants

During the influx of migrant families to the U.S.-Mexico border last year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials failed to meet certain detention standards for those in their care. According to a recently published report from the Office of the Inspector General, the largest inspector general’s office in the federal government tasked with combating fraud, waste and abuse, and to improve the efficiency of Health and Human Services programs, CBP facilities “struggled” to meet detention standards for migrants in their care during the months of May and June 2019. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Judge denies bond reduction request from teen charged with murder

A 17-year-old teen accused of a fatal shooting will remain in jail on $1 million in bonds, a judge ruled. State district Judge Ysmael D. Fonseca Jr. on Friday denied Ryan Jet Rodriguez's request for a bond reduction or for release because of lack of probable cause, court records show. Rodriguez has remained in jail on charges of murder and attempted murder since March 23. Rodriguez is charged along with 20-year-old Tanner Charles Dickerson-Rodriguez for the March 23 shooting death of 18-year-old Angel Gonzalez in the 1000 block of Esperanza Street. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

210 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Hidalgo County

Hidalgo County announced Thursday that a total of 210 people have tested positive for coronavirus, continuing a trend of several hundred cases reported in recent days but 163 less than the previous day. The 210 new cases come on the same day that Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez signed an order limiting mass gatherings in the county to 10 people or less and implementing a curfew in response to a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Starr Co. adopts curfew; prohibits large gatherings

In step with other Rio Grande Valley counties, Starr County issued a supplemental emergency order on Monday establishing a curfew recommendation, prohibiting large gatherings, and strongly recommending the use of facial masks in public in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19. The county issued two curfews, the first of which will be from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. for people 17 years old and under unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. The second will be from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m. for everyone 18 years old and older, unless an individual is out for an emergency or providing covered services. The emergency order goes into effect Tuesday. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

State will not seek death in murder of mother, son

Prosecutors have announced they will not seek the death penalty against two Edinburg residents accused of beating a 53-year-old man to death and fatally asphyxiating a 73-year-old woman more than two years ago. Irene Navejar, 42, and Gabriel Keith Escalante, 41, are charged with capital murder of multiple persons and tampering with physical evidence for the April 28, 2018, murders of Alejandro Salinas Sr. and Oliva Salinas. Prosecutors informed Navejar on Wednesday of the development while Escalante learned on June 29 that the state would not try to execute him if he was convicted, court records show. Read the full story at themonitor.com

National debate over ‘Redskins’ moniker hasn’t fazed Donna

Many high schools across Texas, and the nation, have changed their mascot name and logo in recent years — and again in recent weeks — as the debate over what's appropriate and what's offensive fight for the bigger headlines between that and the COVID-19 pandemic. Hays High School in Buda, Texas is the most recent to “retire” its nickname and “Rebels” mascot, announcing the decision Thursday, in an effort to cut all connections to the Confederacy. The move is part of a larger movement that also included the NFL's team in Washington to remove its “Redskins” moniker. Don't expect that to happen in the Mid-Valley, where the Donna Redskins continue to receive support from the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas and, according to a statement from the school district, from the community as well. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Police, firefighters’ nonprofit donates to slain officers’ families

Local first responders have joined together to help support the families of two McAllen police officers who were killed in the line of duty in July while responding to a domestic disturbance call. The McAllen Guns and Hoses Foundation, a nonprofit organization comprised of McAllen police officers and firefighters, raised more than $90,000 for the families of Ismael “Smiley” Chavez, 39, and Edelmiro Garza, 45. The organization presented the families with the donations during a small ceremony Saturday. Read more at TheMonitor.com.

UTRGV School of Medicine dean ‘optimistic’ of Valley’s condition

As the number of COVID-19 cases expectedly continues to increase in the Rio Grande Valley, one medical professional says he is “guardedly optimistic” about the region’s pandemic prospects. Dr. John Krouse, dean of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s School of Medicine, said Wednesday that after assessing federal data regarding the state’s condition in the coronavirus pandemic, he is hopeful that the region’s prompt reaction to it could be effective. “I think that our local communities, counties and cities did very early on adopt a more strict stance regarding staying at home and sheltering in place, and I think that we will see maybe another week of growth,” the dean said. “But at that point, we will have been at least 14 days or more in our shelter-in-place orders across the Valley. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Nuestra Clinica receives $1.5M in COVID-19 relief 

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, announced more than $1.5 million in funding for Nuestra Clinica Del Valle as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, otherwise known as CARES. The federally qualified health center serves low-income and uninsured families in Hidalgo and Starr counties throughout its 11 locations. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Hidalgo Co. eyes stricter emergency orders

As health officials on Monday reported the second death from COVID-19 in the Rio Grande Valley, confirmed positive cases in Hidalgo County climbed above the triple-digit mark. In a Monday night release, officials reported 14 new cases here bringing Hidalgo County's total to 113, including 14 who are hospitalized. Of those 14, four are in intensive care units. "We are seeing the number of cases double every four days or so," County Judge Richard F. Cortez said in a news release. "This is in line with what we have expected and I can't emphasize enough that the safest place for everyone is in their homes." Read the full story at themonitor.com.

State lawmakers continue pressing for virus containment efforts

The Texas House Public Health Committee held a hearing at the Capitol on Tuesday to receive an update on what efforts and protocols are in place to ensure the state is prepared to address the coronavirus. The 11-member committee, which includes state Rep. R. D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, and Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville, heard testimony from the state’s leading health officials and emergency response personnel. “The purpose of today’s hearing was to find out where our state officials are in regards to this issue,” Guerra said following the hearing. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Men accused in bribery scheme enter guilty pleas

Two men charged with paying cash in exchange for detainee rosters on behalf of a Weslaco immigration attorney pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges in Brownsville this week. Benito Barrientez and Damian Ortiz appeared before U.S. District Judge Rolando Olvera, Jr. on Monday. Each man entered a guilty plea on one count as part of a deal offered by government prosecutors. Barrientez and Ortiz were charged alongside Exy Adelaida Gomez in a five-count indictment on May 28, 2019 for their roles in a bribery scheme in which detainee rosters containing private information including names, dates of birth, country of origin, A-numbers, and housing assignments were given to Weslaco-based attorney Roel Alanis, according to authorities Read the full story at themonitor.com

BISD to name Castro’s replacement

The Brownsville Independent School District Board of Trustees will convene a special called board meeting on Friday to appoint a new board member to fill the vacancy created when former trustee Erasmo Castro resigned. Castro resigned “effectively immediately” in a letter to the district delivered Jan 10. At its Jan. 14 meeting the board accepted the resignation by unanimous vote. The appointment appears to be aimed at addressing concerns Castro could continue to serve in a “holdover” capacity until a successor is appointed or an election held for his former Place 2 seat on the board. Board attorney Baltazar Salazar said the person appointed Friday would serve until November, when an election would be held for the remaining two years of Castro’s term. The terms of board members Sylvia Atkinson, Philip Cowen, Minerva Peña and Laura Perez-Reyes are up for election in November and the remainder of Castro’s term would be added to the list. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Bond denied for Starr Co. man in drug conspiracy case

A Starr County man facing drug conspiracy charges was denied bond last week during a detention hearing, records show. Rene Sepulveda, who made his initial appearance in federal court related to his arrest in Starr County in connection with a drug smuggling investigation April 9, was denied bond during a detention hearing April 16, records show. In addition to Rene Sepulveda, Jose Jesus Medina-Anaya and Joshua Islas were also charged in connection with the investigation that began at the end of March. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Alton man accused of killing infant wants lower bond

A 28-year-old Alton man accused of causing injuries that killed a 4-month-old infant in February is seeking a bond reduction. Court records indicate that Edgar Reyes is scheduled for a hearling Monday afternoon where he'll seek a reduction in his $1,251,000 in bonds. Read the full story at themonitor.com