May 31, 2011

Father of slain woman says she feared Arlington police officer

Evelia Villa had complained to officials about the officer, friends say.

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ARLINGTON -- The father of a woman found strangled last week said he was in Arlington on the day she was killed to help her move to a new apartment because she had been threatened by a police officer.

Augustino Villa, 56, of Chicago, said his daughter, Evelia Villa, called him, pleading for help in dealing with an Arlington officer who had threatened to have Child Protective Services take her children and have her deported.

Evelia Villa, 29, was found strangled May 23 in her apartment in the 2400 block of Park Row Drive, according to authorities.

She had complained to police officials about the officer regarding an incident that happened about a year ago, her friends said.

The officer was fired in May, a police spokesman said last week, but Arlington officials have not disclosed the reason for his termination or identified him.

"I offered to help her move, but the day she was supposed to move, a friend who helped us find the new apartment called to tell me that she had been killed," Augustino Villa said through an interpreter Tuesday.

"We don't know that he is a suspect, but we know that she was afraid of this officer."

Villa answered questions Tuesday at a gathering at Arlington City Hall that was called by the local chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens. Lico Reyes, LULAC district director, said he has fielded at least four complaints from Arlington Hispanic residents regarding the fired officer.

Evelia Villa was found dead by her children May 23. Police did not report the slaying for four days.

Mayor Robert Cluck, who left City Hall after the news conference, was asked about the time lag. He said the police investigation began in earnest when the Tarrant County medical examiner's office ruled the death a homicide.

Cluck said he was informed about the firing of the officer in question but said he would not talk about the reasons.

"It's not my place to comment on the disciplinary actions of the Police Department," Cluck said. "They are working on some leads right now."

In an e-mailed statement, Arlington police said:

"As with any homicide investigation, it is critical to the outcome of the case that investigators objectively evaluate all evidence related to the case and allow that information to lead us to the individual or persons responsible for this crime. While each case is different, investigative steps taken to solve the crime are methodically taken to ensure the expedient capture of the person(s) responsible. As a police department, we must consistently support the due process and constitutional rights of individuals in an effort to facilitate unbiased investigations."

Evelia Villa's brother, Jimmy Villa, 26, said his sister was victimized by police because she was in this country illegally.

"I just want justice for Evelia," Jimmy Villa said. "It's not right that a person be allowed to do this."

The medical examiner's office last week reported her name as Evelia Villa Valencia. Her family said Tuesday that Villa was her correct last name.

About two dozen people released balloons as they prayed for Villa's four children. A friend, Jonay Leon, said people in Arlington are afraid of the police and immigration officials.

"A lot of people wanted to come out here to support us, but they are afraid because they are here illegally," Leon said.

Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752

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