BROWNSVILLE, Texas — A U.S. Border Patrol agent has been cleared of murder in the cartel decapitation of a Honduran illegal immigrant; he was convicted of two separate counts engaging in organized criminal activity. The agent’s brother, a Gulf Cartel commander, has been convicted of all charges and is facing life in prison.
After more than two weeks of trial and deliberations, jurors were not able to find enough evidence linking U.S. Border Patrol agent Joel Luna directly to the murder and decapitation of Jose Francisco “Franklin” Rodriguez Palacios Paz, but found enough evidence to believe that Luna used his badge to help Mexico’s Gulf Cartel move drugs, cash, and weapons past border checkpoints. His sentencing has been set for a later date.
Luna’s brother, Eduardo “Comandante Pajarito”, was convicted of capital murder, murder, and two counts of engaging in organized criminal activity. The two brothers, along with a third brother who turned into a state witness, had originally all been charged in connection with the gruesome murder of Rodriguez Palacios.
The case began when a group of men fishing in the beach resort town of South Padre Island found a headless body floating in the water during spring break 2015. As Breitbart Texas reported at the time, the head was never recovered but authorities were able to identify the body of Rodriguez Palacios through fingerprints since the man had been previously arrested by U.S. Border Patrol.
The actual triggerman for the murder was 26-year-old Eduardo Luna who, according to prosecutors, killed Rodriguez for having talked to authorities about the criminal activities of the group. The Luna brothers had a tire shop in Edinburg, Texas, that was being used as a staging area before moving the drug shipments past Joel’s border checkpoint in Hebronville, Texas.
At the time of Joel Luna’s arrest, authorities discovered inside a safe a badge, a duty-issued rifle, a jeweled handgun with the words Cartel Del Golfo and Pajarito inscribed on them, $90,000 and various drugs.
Ildefonso Ortiz is an award winning journalist with Breitbart Texas. He co-founded the Cartel Chronicles project with Brandon Darby and Stephen K. Bannon. You can follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.