Update: Son agrees to return to Pasco from Mexico to face his mother’s murder

A murder suspect on the run for nearly six months reportedly called a Franklin County detective before crossing the border back into the United States and surrendering.

Clemente Rodriguez Torres decided to turn himself in after talking with family members in the Mid-Columbia, according to Franklin County prosecutors.

Relatives then put Rodriguez Torres in contact with sheriff’s Detective Steve Warren, who flew to San Diego on Friday after learning the suspect was in custody.

On Monday, Rodriguez Torres appeared before a California judge and agreed to his extradition to Washington state, said Deputy Prosecutor Dave Corkrum.

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office now is making arrangements for the 33-year-old Prosser man’s return to face charges for killing his mother and dumping her body somewhere.

He could appear in Franklin County Superior Court later this week, depending on how quick he can be transported from Southern California.

Meanwhile, his father, Tiburcio Larios Rodriguez, remains wanted for his wife’s death.

Estela Torres.
Estela Torres

Estela Torres Rodriguez was last seen March 28 in an Orchard Road home, north of Pasco.

The grandmother was reported missing about 17 hours later, and investigators say there was a large amount of blood and other evidence of a violent attack inside the house.

Her 2006 Buick Rendezvous was later found at a Highway 395 rest area north of Connell. Her body was not inside, and the sheriff’s office has exhausted efforts to find her in the rural areas off the highway between Pasco and the rest stop.

The husband and wife had been married 30 years, but separated in February. He wanted to reunite, but she refused, according to family members.

Sheriff Jim Raymond had said his office believed both men fled to Mexico in the days after Estela’s disappearance.

A second son was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the case. The charges were dismissed in June.

Drone Missing Home
Estela Torres Rodriguez, 54, is believed to have been killed inside this north Franklin County home last Thursday. Sheriff Jim Raymond says there is evidence inside the 140 Orchard Road house to suggest a violent attack. Watch a video at: Bob Brawdy Tri-City Herald

Corkrum said they had expected for Rodriguez Torres to cross the border some time soon between Mexico and the United States.

But in his more than 35 years as a lawyer, Corkrum said he’s never had a suspect who allegedly fled the country turn himself in like this.

Mexico-California border

Once he was at the San Ysidro crossing on Thursday, Sept. 19, Rodriguez Torres reportedly indicated that he had a $1 million warrant for his arrest, which could be confirmed in a national database.

He was taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and booked into a San Diego County facility at 1:13 a.m. Friday, online records show.

Corkrum said Detective Warren got on a plane as soon as they got confirmation of the arrest.

He said even though Warren previously talked to the suspect on the phone, no promises were made about what would happen after his arrest.

Rodriguez family
Estela and Tiburco Rodriguez stand at the center of their nine children. Police believe Tiburco and one of their sons, Clemente, was responsible for killing the woman and then disappearing. Gardenia Rodriguez

Corkrum couldn’t say Monday afternoon if the detective and suspect had already met in person. He is hopeful that Rodriguez Torres will agree to talk to give some information on the whereabouts of both his father and mother.

“That would sure make the family a lot happier,” he said. “It’s been hard on them, just the fact that mom is out there somewhere and they can’t do a proper funeral.”

The Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office praised the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office for helping, especially on a Friday afternoon.

Corkrum said their prosecutors helped get search warrants to seize everything Rodriguez Torres’ was carrying, including a cellphone, when he re-entered the United States.

The investigation into Estela’s disappearance is ongoing. Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Steve Warren at 509-545-5424.

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Wendy Culverwell writes about local government and politics, focusing on how those decisions affect your life. She also covers key business and economic development changes that shape our community. Her restaurant column and health inspection reports are reader favorites. She’s been a news reporter in Washington and Oregon for 25 years.