Six months after a grandmother went missing from a Franklin County house, one of her adult sons made his first appearance in a Pasco courtroom on allegations he killed her.
Clemente Rodriguez Torres, 33, is charged with the first-degree murder of Estela Torres Rodriguez.
The Prosser man is believed to have fled to Mexico shortly after his 54-year-old mother disappeared on March 28.
He surrendered to U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the California border on Sept. 19, and was flown back to the Tri-Cities by a private law enforcement contractor early Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Rodriguez Torres appeared in Franklin County Superior Court via live video feed from the county jail.
In the brief hearing, Kennewick lawyer Theodore Schott was appointed to represent him. Bail remains at $1 million.
Rodriguez Torres is scheduled to return to court Oct. 8 to enter a plea.
Father is still missing
His father, Tiburcio Larios Rodriguez, also is charged with first-degree murder.
Investigators say the 63-year-old man wanted to reunite with his wife, since the couple of 30 years had separated the month prior in February. But Estela reportedly refused, even in the hours before she went missing.
She was last seen by two other sons inside the house at 140 Orchard Road, just north of Pasco.
The brothers went to a late breakfast while Estela stayed home and cooked chicken on the stove. They later returned to find the chicken burning,after all the liquid had boiled away, and no Estela.
Her vehicle also was missing.
Family notified authorities early the next morning, and investigators ultimately discovered three large blood stains on the living room carpet.
Vehicle found, but no victim
The SUV was located the following week at a Highway 395 rest stop, but Estela’s body hasn’t been found despite exhaustive law enforcement searches by ground and air in north Franklin County.
Larios Rodriguez is believed to have fled to Mexico with his son. However, he was not with Rodriguez Torres when the son surrendered at the San Ysidro border entering San Diego.
The federal government is taking steps to get a warrant for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution and is working with the Mexican government to try to find the father, said Sheriff Jim Raymond.
Anyone with information on the case is asked to call Franklin County sheriff’s Detective Steve Warren at 509-545-5424.