Crime scene investigation in Franklin County
Update on this story: Deputies believe a mother of 9 is dead. Her daughters are praying they’re wrong
Evidence of a violent attack inside a north Franklin County home has detectives believing a 54-year-old woman was murdered, said Sheriff Jim Raymond.
Estela Torres Rodriguez has been missing since Thursday morning, when she was last seen by several relatives.
Investigators now are working on the assumption that her body is inside her 2006 white Buick Rendezvous and the SUV has been dumped somewhere in the greater Mid-Columbia region.
Arrest warrants with $1 million bail were issued Monday for her estranged husband, Tiburcio L. Torres Rodriguez, and one of her sons, Clemente Rodriguez Torres.
The two Prosser men were charged in Franklin County Superior Court with first-degree murder, meaning they had premeditated intent.
The father is 63 and his son is 33.
Woman ‘is probably deceased’
“There’s enough (evidence) to make a reasonable person assume (Estela Torres Rodriguez) is probably deceased,” Raymond told the Tri-City Herald. “... Then, on top of that, it’s been almost five days now. Five days and she’s not shown up anywhere. You just kind of plug all that together and a reasonable person would assume we have a problem.”
Torres Rodriguez lived at 140 Orchard Road — not far from North Glade Road, north of Pasco — with another son and his girlfriend, who are not suspects.
The two suspects, who were last known to be living in Prosser, did not have any connection to the Franklin County home other than Torres Rodriguez lived there, said Raymond. He did not know what kind of work they did.
Reported missing early Friday
A sheriff’s office news release issued this weekend said while Estela Torres Rodriguez was last seen Thursday morning, her suspicious disappearance was not reported by family until after 3 a.m. Friday.
That initial release classified her as a missing person and said “circumstances indicate that she may be in danger.”
Raymond acknowledged that his office may have been “overly cautious” in waiting until late Saturday afternoon to ask for the public’s help because deputies were trying to confirm what they had.
But some things that happened over the weekend soon made it clear the missing person case should be ratcheted up to a homicide case, he added.
“As information developed and as we did one search warrant and talked to other people and started connecting the dots, we said, ‘Yeah, this really is what it appears to be,’” said Raymond.
Son’s car recovered
Detectives did preliminary searches at both the Orchard Road home and a Prosser location connected to the two suspects. They also recovered a car that the son was driving.
All of that helped investigators get a search warrant for the crime scene, where the evidence showed a violent attack took place “and you could account for everybody except for her,” Raymond said.
He added that detectives have enough evidence to put the husband and son with Estela Torres Rodriguez, but are withholding the details at this time.
Investigators have information that her Buick left the home on Orchard Road in north Franklin County at some point late last week and possibly was moved into the far corners of Benton County near the Yakima or Grant county lines.
The Buick may have been driven through the Othello area into Benton, Grant or Yakima counties.
Or it may have traveled south through Franklin County, then west on Interstate 82 into the Prosser and Whitstran area.
“It’s probably sitting somewhere remotely,” said Raymond, who is hopeful that a farmer or passerby will notice the abandoned SUV and call it in. The Buick’s license plate is BGM-1666.
Suspects on the run
Detectives are having a tough time finding the two suspects, who know they are wanted and are believed to be armed.
Raymond said there are some indications the father and son may be hiding out in the Yakima Valley, but investigators are also hearing the suspects have fled to Las Vegas or to Mexico.
“We’ve heard all of it, but we’ve got no hard information where they may be,” he said.
The son is described as being 5-foot-9 and 250 pounds. The husband has a medium build.
Deputies have released photos of the suspects, but say both have shaved off their facial hair since photos were taken. The son also has since shaved his head.
Raymond said while his detectives are out trying to track down the suspects, his office has been assisted by Benton County sheriff’s deputies and Pasco police in looking for the SUV.
The Washington State Patrol’s Crime Scene Response Team also searched the Orchard Road home for evidence.
Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Estela Torres Rodriguez or the suspects is asked to call the sheriff’s office at 509-545-3501 during business hours or dispatch at 509-628-0333. Call 911 if it is an emergency.