Community Shocked Over Arrest of Pastor for Wife's Murder Plot

Worshipers at Manantial de Vida Church in San Benito attended services as they do every Sunday, only to discover shocking news.

It wasn't until Action 4 News showed up that they learned their pastor, 40-year-old Julio Cesar Perez, was charged with capital murder in the death of his wife, Sonia Perez.

"I feel bad because I just can't believe it, Bertha Trevio, a teacher at the church said. We'll just have to wait for God's justice. I pray to God that the pastor will be free soon."

Cameron County Sheriff Deputies found Sonia Perez shot to death inside her van Thursday night along FM 1846.

Sheriff Omar Lucio said Julio Cesar Perez hired two hit men to kill his wife. One of the alleged hit men is 19-year-old Gabriel Apolinar Escalante of San Benito.

Lucio said investigators are still working to uncover a motive and the amount of money the pastor allegedly paid for his wife's murder. However, those who've known the couple for years refuse to believe it.

"No. I just can TMt believe it - I TMm in shock just like I was that day they told me about Sonia TMs death, San Juana Zuniga said. I have no words to describe it."

"They never had any problems, they were always happy, always showing each other love, supporting each other and always together at church," Trevio said.

Trevio works in the church and she will now lead in Perez TMs absence.She said despite the tragic situation, their faith will not be shaken.

"God's work must continue, Trevino said. The pastor and his wife are not here, but our church must go forth because it belongs to God. All we can do is move forward and pray for justice."

Action 4 News spoke to one of Sonia Perez TMs sisters outside the funeral home in San Benito, where her family gathered Sunday for a closed viewing.

She did not want to appear on camera, but when she learned about the accusations against Julio Cesar Perez, she simply said, I don TMt believe it, but anything is possible.

Julio Cesar Perez and Gabriel Apolinar Escalante are both charged with capital murder and were denied bond.

Sheriff Deputies are still looking for a third suspect.