The slaying of La Estrella freelance journalist Jay Torres, who was found shot to death last week in the back yard of a Garland house, has drawn international attention.
The head of the United Nations agency that promotes press freedom on Wednesday condemned the killing of Torres, 57, a longtime reporter and photographer for the Star-Telegram’s bilingual weekly.
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said from Paris that authorities must determine the motive for the killing.
“I call on the authorities to investigate this killing and its motives so that those responsible for it be brought to trial,” Bokova said in a statement.
Garland police say they have not determined whether Torres’ journalism contributed to his death. He also operated a real estate business that involved renovating homes, and his body was found June 13 at a house he either had purchased or was considering buying.
Detectives seized reporter’s notebooks that were in his car. Relatives have also given police the names of more than 30 tenants who lived on property owned by Torres’ company, The Establishment Inc. in Dallas.
Family members said Torres wrote everything in notebooks and didn’t use a computer.
“Detectives are going through a lot of information,” Garland police Lt. Pedro Barineau said Tuesday. “And they are looking at everything. The problem is that [his body] was there several days before he was found.”
Police don’t believe that Torres was robbed, because he wasn’t missing any items.
Although he never told his family details of the news reports he was working on, Torres had written “risky” stories in the past, his daughter, Aline Torres, said in a phone interview this week. She said he had been working on such a story since October, but she said he did not go into detail about it.
In one of his last stories for La Estrella, Torres interviewed a group of Mexican citizens who traveled in eight vehicles to México to vote in the June 5 elections.
According to the story Torres wrote, a group of doctors and attorneys was part of the caravan. They had received their degrees in Mexico but had immigrated to the United States to work in the construction industry.
“I called Jay to talk about doing a feature story about professionals from Mexico who work in construction, restaurants or the service industry,” said Juan Antonio Ramos, executive editor of La Estrella. “A sort of human interest story about those professionals who have immigrated to this country.”
Torres agreed to work on the assignment.
“That was the last conversation we had,” Ramos said. “He was diligent in pursuing leads; he’d look very carefully into those stories and whenever he had something definite, he would call us to talk about it.”
Ramos said Garland police have not contacted him.
Torres had to deal from time to time with angry tenants.
His son, Gibran Torres, said at least one of them had a long criminal history.
“He had talked about installing a surveillance camera at his office in Dallas,” Gibran Torres said. “The windows were so high at his office that he couldn’t see who was approaching his door. He felt it would be safer if he could see them.”
On June 10, Torres met with a foundation repair contractor at a house that was for sale in the 4200 block of Mayflower Drive, his son Gibran Torres said.
Aline Torres said: “I texted him about 6 p.m. on that Friday but he didn’t respond. I tried again on Saturday, the next day, and again he didn’t answer, but I wasn’t worried.”
Torres’ business partner found his body on the evening of June 13.
National organizations speak out
In addition to UNESCO, which is the U.N. agency that defends press freedom, other organizations have called for investigations of Torres’ death.
Carlos Lauría, senior program corrdinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said, “It’s important that authorities thoroughly investigate the murder of Jay Torres, including whether his journalistic work was the motive for his death.”
Mekahlo Medina, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, said Torres’ slaying has affected the organization.
“We are alarmed by the death of Jay and urge the authorities to investigate thoroughly, including whether his journalistic work was the cause of his death,” Medina said.
Since 1992, seven journalists have been killed in the United States, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Four were slain and the other three died while on dangerous assignments. Those assignments included demonstrations, riots, clashes between rival groups and mob situations.
This report includes material from La Estrella and Star-Telegram archives.