DA to seek death penalty against hitman in teacher's death

Alfredo Castañeda

Prosecutors reported that they are planning to seek the death penalty against the alleged hit man in a murder-for-hire plot to kill a Rio Hondo ISD teacher.

Daniel Flores Lopez appeared before Judge Patricia Edelstein-Hernandez on Tuesday.

Cameron County Sheriff's Department deputies formally charged 37-year-old Lopez with capital murder.

Judge Edelstein-Hernandez denied bond for Lopez, who has a lengthy criminal history involving 30 past arrests.

Officials with the Cameron County District Attorney's Office told Action 4 News that they intend to seek the death penalty against Lopez.

The San Benito man is accused of being the hit man that killed Rio Hondo Intermediate School teacher Sonia Perez.

Life Insurance Motive

Investigators allege that the third-grade teacher's husband Julio Cesar Perez allegedly went through middleman Gabriel Apolinar Escalante to hire Lopez.

Cameron County Chief Deputy Gus Reyna told Action 4 News that Perez, an El Ranchito pastor, wanted to kill his wife to cash in on a life insurance policy.

Chief Deputy Reyna said the pastor gave Lopez a set of spare keys to his wife's van.

Lopez hid in the van and waited for Sonia Perez to leave work before killing her.

Her body was found off Robles Road and FM 1846 between Rio Hondo and San Benito.

She had been shot in the head and the ribs. Her foot was still pressing on the brakes of the her van, which was left with the engine running and in drive.

Rio Hondo ISD

Rio Hondo Independent School District Superintendent Anneliese McMinn told Action 4 News that employees automatically get a $20,000 life insurance policy.

McMinn said employees can get additional coverage through a third party, which are deducted from their paychecks.

Superintendent McMinn would not confirm or deny if Sonia Perez was paying more for life insurance.

McMinn referred any further questions about the life insurance policy the sheriff TMs office or DA TMs office.

She said students, parents and staff are still dealing with the loss of a beloved third grade teacher.

"We're devastataed," McMinn said. "She was a beloved teacher. It's a great loss for us."

Fourth Suspect Arrested

Jail records show that Lopez, Perez and Escalante are all being kept separate from a fourth man identified as 39-year-old Alfredo Castaeda.

Deputies arrested Castaeda on Monday an alleged probation violation in a possession of marijuana case.

Chief Deputy Reyna said Castaeda is the fourth suspect in the case.

His exact role is not clear but Reyna said the case remains under investigation.