BROWNWOOD, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – No answers or developments have been made in 26 years following the murder of Juan Leon Laureles, leaving his family desperately reaching for answers.
Growing up, Leon Laureles and Arlene Harbison were inseparable. Laureles was Harbison’s uncle, even though they were only two years apart.
They spent nearly everyday together growing up, playing in the same band in high school and becoming more like siblings every day.
Harbison said when she had children, Laureles moved in and took the graveyard shift at Kroger, helping take care of the babies while she worked.
“He was my everything and now he’s gone,” Harbison said through tears. “It’s still just as hard for me as it was that day.”
Until the night of May 10, 1996, when Laureles was on his way to work but never arrived. Coworkers alerted local police after waiting for the joyful Laureles to walk through the front doors.
It wasn’t long after that Laureles body was found down Farm to Market road 2126 in Brownwood. He had been shot in the back of the head, lying on the dirt road, dead while his 1988 Ford Thunderbird erupted in flames.
“I don’t know exactly where he was shot, I don’t know what kind of gun was used, I don’t know if shells were found or if they were tested because they never told us,” Harbison said.
She said since that day, it has been an uphill battle fighting for information on her uncle’s murder, but no suspects or evidence have come up in more than a two-and-a-half decades.
“I’m very angry,” Harbison said. “I’m very frustrated because his case went cold almost immediately.”
Harbison said she believes her beloved family member was killed in an act of hatred, as she knew Leon Laureles as not openly gay man, just entering a more public relationship.
“There’s been other people who have been very vocal how gay people were being treated at that time,” Harbison said. “He was not only gay, he was a Hispanic man in a very conservative small town. That was the reason he wasn’t openly gay, that would have been very bad.”
She said, however, that regardless of his sexuality, everyone Laureles knew loved his kind heart and willingness to help others. She said he was easily the most-liked person around.
After 26 years of searching for answers, Harbison said she is left with little hope that justice will be served for her uncle.
“I’ve come to terms with the fact that no one will be arrested or indicted for his murder, but I just want answers,” Harbison pleaded. “I just want to know what really happened to him and I want to know why.”
Harbison said she felt as if the case went cold just days after his death, but speaking with the Brown County Sheriff’s Office, they said the case is still very much open and is still being investigated.