Posted: Jun 25, 2014 6:44 PM
Updated: Jun 30, 2014 3:03 PM
FALFURRIAS - Texas Rangers will investigate the handling and processing of the remains of unidentified illegal immigrants found in Brooks County. It's been two weeks since anthropologists exhumed more than 100 unidentified bodies from a mass gravesite.
Since then, Brooks County officials have been bombarded with questions. For years, there wasn't a procedure on how to deal with unidentified bodies. In fact, the county doesn't know who owns the cemetery the bodies were found in.
In the past two years, anthropologists from Baylor and Indianapolis University removed more than 200 unidentified bodies from the Sacred Heart cemetery. The news prompted Brooks County Judge Raul Ramirez to stop any future burials and call the Texas Rangers.
"We haven't buried any more people once we entered into the contract with Webb County and Baylor University. They are forwarded to San Marcos," explained Ramirez.
So far this year, there have been 33 unidentified bodies found in the county.
The county needed an outside organization to look into the mass graves.
It's not clear who was in charge of monitoring the burials of the unidentified illegal immigrants. If the county is involved, they could face criminal or negligent charges.
"I have concerns how this was handled. I have concerns other counties are burying in our cemetery," said the Brooks County judge.
County workers are helping Texas Rangers sift through historical records to find out who is at fault - the county, Sacred Heart Church or the local funeral homes. Before the discovery of the mass graves, few records were kept on unidentified bodies. Now pictures and descriptions of the unidentified bodies found in Brooks County are kept in a book.
Families looking for missing loved ones will have to wait for the investigation to start. Relatives of Sergio Valle-Avalos called CHANNEL 5 NEWS after hearing about the graves in Falfurrias. They fear the 42-year-old's body may be among those found hastily buried at Sacred Hearth cemetery. He went missing earlier this month.
Robert Sandoval, one of his relatives, called from Puerto Vallarte. He said some relatives didn't want Valle-Avalos to make the journey.
"He wasn't doing well; he was dehydrated," he told us.
Unfortunately, the family has to wait and there's no timeline on when the official investigation will start. Brooks County officials must first provide Texas Rangers with historical documents to begin. Right now, many of those documents are hard to find.
If you have a loved one who has gone missing after crossing the border, the Brooks County Sheriff's Office may be able to help. Here is a list of information the sheriff department needs:
* Full physical description of the person including age, height, weight, noticeable birthmarks or tattoos
* A picture
* Sample of DNA from immediate family members
You can contact the Brooks County Sheriff's Department by calling (361) 325-1743.