Mineral Wells troubled by slaying of 4-year-old boy

MINERAL WELLS -- Roving helicopters and bright lights woke school Superintendent Ronny Collins early Sunday. As he stood in the driveway of his home on 25th Street at 6 a.m., he was blinded by police lights nearby.

By Sunday afternoon, the community of about 17,900 west of Fort Worth was hearing the latest news in the weekend killing of a local 4-year-old boy, Salvador Briones Jr. Police had shot and killed a suspect, Arturo Pacheco-Barrera, 23, early Sunday in a pasture near Collins' home in the southeast part of the city.

On Monday, authorities continued to investigate the boy's slaying, as the boy's mother and father made arrangements for their son's funeral.

"She is destroyed," the woman's brother said on the family's front porch as he waited for her to return from the funeral home.

The boy's death also weighed heavily on law officers and Mineral Wells residents.

Police had been encouraged that they would find the boy alive after the suspect disclosed his location, Mineral Wells Police Chief Mike McAllester said.

About 10 p.m. Friday, Pacheco-Barrera talked with police, told them that another person was involved, and said the boy was in an abandoned building in the 3600 block of U.S. 281.

When officers kicked open the door and found the child dead, "it was devastating to the officers," McAllester said.

A preliminary cause of death was listed as "homicidal trauma," McAllester said, but he could not give any details because the investigation is not complete.

But he did say that heat was a factor in Salvador's death.

Early Saturday, Pacheco-Barrera led FBI agents to his home for collection of evidence and additional questions. He was not shackled, McAllester said, because he was cooperating and hadn't been arrested. But about 2 a.m., he ran away from the agents, who aren't familiar with the area, McAllester said.

"When they were leaving his house, he fled on foot," McAllester said.

Authorities won't say which officers later shot him. The Texas Rangers are investigating the shooting, McAllester said. FBI agents, the Parker County Sheriff's Department and the Texas Department of Public Safety have also been involved in the investigation.

Several agencies are also continuing to investigate the boy's death, McAllester said.

Relatives said Monday that an unidentified man called the home early Friday and said Salvador had been kidnapped. Thinking it was a hoax, his father hung up, a family member said.

But about 9:20 a.m., the family called police to report the boy missing from his bed, police said.

Police believe that the family did not call immediately because of apprehension over some members' immigration status.

Authorities eventually traced the call to Pacheco-Barrera, who is believed to have bought the phone at Wal-Mart, said Isidro Ramirez, 28, the boy's uncle and brother of the boy's mother, Nancy Ramirez. Pacheco-Barrera is also said to have demanded a $15,000 ransom, police said.

The family is originally from Guanajuato, Mexico, Isidro Ramirez said. They have three other children.

Salvador loved trucks and playing outside, Ramirez said. He loved to race his cars and toys across the front sidewalk.

An altar filled with balloons, teddy bears, flowers, a toy bulldozer -- and Salvador's photograph -- was erected in front of the family's house on Fourth Avenue. Neighbors walked by Monday afternoon to offer condolences.

Salvador was preregistered to attend Lamar Elementary School last August, said Collins, the superintendent, but he never enrolled. He was not registered for this fall, he said.

"Of course everybody is upset with him being a child," Collins said. "We don't have that kind of thing happening around here."

Others at local restaurants also said they were shocked because such tragedies are not common in Mineral Wells. Another troubling occurrence was also on their minds: the July 5 disappearance of Shonda Townsend, 19.

Her locked car was found with the stereo missing. Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for information about her.

"It stretches our resources to the limit," McAllester said.

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