Monterrey

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A couple from Texas who moved to a remote and violence-plagued area of northern Mexico to run a Baptist church were found slain at their ransacked home, their children said.

John and Wanda Casias were originally from Amarillo, Texas, but relatives said they moved to an area outside the city of Monterrey in the late 1970s or early 1980s and made it their home.

Valerie Alirez, the eldest child of John Casias, told The Associated Press from her home in Greeley, Colorado, that one of her brothers found her father and stepmother on Tuesday dead in their home in Santiago, Nuevo Leon.

John Casias was a Baptist preacher, and the couple ran the First Fundamentalist Independent Baptist Church in Santiago, Alirez said.

Her brother, Shawn Casias, who lives in Monterrey, said he went to his parents’ home around 4 p.m. Tuesday to pick up a trailer. When he went into the home to say goodbye, he said he found Wanda Casias lying on the floor with an electrical cord around her neck and a gash from a blunt object on her head.

Missing from the house were a couple of computers, a plasma television and a safe that had been chiseled out of the wall.

The couple’s Chevrolet Suburban was also missing and Casias said he initially thought his father had been kidnapped.

But about four or five hours later a forensic investigator informed him that his father’s body had been found in a storage room of a small building on the property. His father also had an electrical cord around his neck, he said.

Fighting between the Zetas and Gulf drug cartels has brought a surge of violence and other crimes to Monterrey and the surrounding region since 2010. In poorer suburbs, entire blocks have been held up by gunmen and young people have been snatched off the streets.

Casias said a sister-in-law in Dallas had spoken to their mother around 11 a.m. Tuesday and everything was fine. So he believes there was about a five-hour window when the killings could have occurred before he showed up.

He said the killers did not take everything they could have, leaving two of the three TV sets. He said perhaps they were warned that he was coming, because anyone watching the winding road approaching the home could have alerted them.

“They’re scum. They’re not sophisticated,” he said.

Speaking from his parents’ home, Casias said the house was burglarized two years ago when the couple were on one of their periodic visits to the United States to talk at churches about their work in Mexico.

“We’re convinced that it’s somebody he knew,” Casias said of the killers. He said authorities had some leads based on people seen around the home.

John Casia was 76. He had recently priced a knee replacement because he couldn’t walk more than 100 yards without having to sit down, Shawn Casias said. Wanda Casias was 67.

Casias said his parents held services and prayer meetings at a church about three miles (five kilometers) from their home.

The couple maintained a website, www.casias.org, with details of their lives and their missionary work.

“The only hope for the Mexican people today is Jesus in them, the HOPE of glory,” they wrote in one dispatch from last summer. “I confess that it’s getting easier to witness to the wealthy, at least they are listening. The wealthy are fleeing to Canada and the USA for protection. The only problem is that when they return to re-new their visas the cartel is waiting, and either kill them or kidnap them for thousands of dollars, in some cases millions. The cartel has NO mercy or value for life. They are ruthless murderers!”

It was the second slaying involving American missionaries in a year in the Mexican region bordering Texas.

In January 2011, a Texas couple who had been doing missionary work in Mexico for three decades were attacked at an illegal roadblock in one of the country’s most violent areas.

Nancy Davis, 59, was fatally shot in the head while her husband, Sam, sped away from suspected drug cartel gunmen who may have wanted to steal their pickup truck, authorities said.

The Davises were driving along the two-lane road that connects the city of San Fernando with the border city of Reynosa in the state of Tamaulipas, which borders Nuevo Leon.

Printed on Friday, February 3, 2012 as: Baptist couple brutally killed in Mexico home

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A couple from Texas who moved to a remote and violence-plagued area of northern Mexico to run a Baptist church were found slain at their ransacked home, their children said.

John and Wanda Casias were originally from Amarillo, Texas, but relatives said they moved to an area outside the city of Monterrey in the late 1970s or early 1980s and made it their home.

Valerie Alirez, the eldest child of John Casias, told The Associated Press from her home in Greeley, Colorado, that one of her brothers found her father and stepmother on Tuesday dead in their home in Santiago, Nuevo Leon.

John Casias was a Baptist preacher, and the couple ran the First Fundamentalist Independent Baptist Church in Santiago, Alirez said.

Her brother, Shawn Casias, who lives in Monterrey, said he went to his parents’ home around 4 p.m. Tuesday to pick up a trailer. When he went into the home to say goodbye, he said he found Wanda Casias lying on the floor with an electrical cord around her neck and a gash from a blunt object on her head.

Missing from the house were a couple of computers, a plasma television and a safe that had been chiseled out of the wall.

The couple’s Chevrolet Suburban was also missing and Casias said he initially thought his father had been kidnapped.

But about four or five hours later a forensic investigator informed him that his father’s body had been found in a storage room of a small building on the property. His father also had an electrical cord around his neck, he said.

Fighting between the Zetas and Gulf drug cartels has brought a surge of violence and other crimes to Monterrey and the surrounding region since 2010. In poorer suburbs, entire blocks have been held up by gunmen and young people have been snatched off the streets.

Casias said a sister-in-law in Dallas had spoken to their mother around 11 a.m. Tuesday and everything was fine. So he believes there was about a five-hour window when the killings could have occurred before he showed up.

He said the killers did not take everything they could have, leaving two of the three TV sets. He said perhaps they were warned that he was coming, because anyone watching the winding road approaching the home could have alerted them.

“They’re scum. They’re not sophisticated,” he said.

Speaking from his parents’ home, Casias said the house was burglarized two years ago when the couple were on one of their periodic visits to the United States to talk at churches about their work in Mexico.

“We’re convinced that it’s somebody he knew,” Casias said of the killers. He said authorities had some leads based on people seen around the home.

John Casia was 76. He had recently priced a knee replacement because he couldn’t walk more than 100 yards without having to sit down, Shawn Casias said. Wanda Casias was 67.

Casias said his parents held services and prayer meetings at a church about three miles (five kilometers) from their home.

The couple maintained a website, www.casias.org, with details of their lives and their missionary work.

“The only hope for the Mexican people today is Jesus in them, the HOPE of glory,” they wrote in one dispatch from last summer. “I confess that it’s getting easier to witness to the wealthy, at least they are listening. The wealthy are fleeing to Canada and the USA for protection. The only problem is that when they return to re-new their visas the cartel is waiting, and either kill them or kidnap them for thousands of dollars, in some cases millions. The cartel has NO mercy or value for life. They are ruthless murderers!”

It was the second slaying involving American missionaries in a year in the Mexican region bordering Texas.

In January 2011, a Texas couple who had been doing missionary work in Mexico for three decades were attacked at an illegal roadblock in one of the country’s most violent areas.

Nancy Davis, 59, was fatally shot in the head while her husband, Sam, sped away from suspected drug cartel gunmen who may have wanted to steal their pickup truck, authorities said.

The Davises were driving along the two-lane road that connects the city of San Fernando with the border city of Reynosa in the state of Tamaulipas, which borders Nuevo Leon.

Printed on Friday, February 3, 2012 as: Baptist couple brutally killed in Mexico home

Although English freshman Sasha Henry’s cousin is getting married in Monterrey during spring break, she is afraid of crossing the border into Mexico because of a recent upswing in violence and a warning from the Texas Department of Public Safety. The Texas DPS issued a warning earlier this month against traveling to Mexico for spring break — the fifth warning the department has issued since last spring break. According to the warning, there has been a general increase in drug-related violence since Christmas, as well as the assassinations of a missionary in Tamaulipas, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer in Torreón and two El Paso teens in Juárez. As many as 65 Americans were killed in Mexico in 2010, the warning said. Henry said she tried to convince her mother not to go and forwarded her the DPS warning to help her argument. Her family went to Monterrey last July and took many precautionary safety measures, she said. “My family said we couldn’t go downtown alone unless one of our male family members came with us,” she said. “It’s dangerous. You couldn’t travel by night; the streets were dead by 6 p.m. I hear now that in Monterrey, crime isn’t just happening at night; it’s happening during the day.” The family plans to go by a nonstop bus that will only travel during the day and will not sightsee. They will not take their cars because of the dangers of having a Texas license plate, Henry said. “It’s not a safe thing to go to Mexico at this point,” she said. “It’s the saddest thing to have my cousins in Mexico say, ‘Please come.’ They know it’s dangerous and our safety is a concern, but it’s hard when you have family there.” According to the warning, Falcon Lake is also an area to avoid because cartel activity remains high in the area. Mexico continues to face criminal offenses, including kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery and carjacking, according to the warning. The DPS issued the warning to call attention to dangers in Mexico many don’t know of, said DPS spokesperson Tela Mange. “We want people to be aware of things going on that they might not be aware of,” she said. “This year with all the things going on recently, we wanted to warn people that it’s not safe.” People should always check the DPS website before traveling to any country to get the most up-to-date safety and security information, Mange said. Tourist towns such as Cabo San Lucas and Cozumel are not as threatening as cities close to and in Northern Mexico, said undeclared sophomore Jorge Gubera. Gubera plans to travel to Cabo with two friends from high school during the break. He also traveled to Cozumel for spring break in 2009. According to the warning, crime also exists in popular resort areas. “I try not to think about [the warning]. It’s kind of scary,” he said. “I’m not too worried about it though because [Cabo San Lucas] is a tourist town.”

Editor’s Note: Portions of the interviews were translated from Spanish to English.

Chemistry freshman Adrian Reyna and his family filed for citizenship before they came to the United States from Monterrey, Mexico, more than 10 years ago. Reyna, now 20 years old, still has not been approved.

He and other members of UT’s University Leadership Initiative — an organization of undocumented students and allies ¬— staged a walkout today and made their way to the state Capitol. The organization joined nearly 3,000 people from all over Texas to rally for inclusive immigration and community security reform at the Capitol on Tuesday.

“We believe that the voting capacity of Texas has grown,” Reyna said. “The Hispanic population has grown, and we can eventually get [legislators who do not pass comprehensive immigration reform] out of session.”

Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance organized the “Texas Can Do Better” demonstration in response to more than 60 bills regarding immigration policy in spite of the estimated $15 billion to $27 billion budget shortfall.

Proposed legislation includes withholding birth certificates from children born to undocumented parents, requiring public schools to verify students’ citizenship status and mandating law enforcement officials to verify the citizenship status of all arrested persons.

Adriana Cadena, the alliance’s coordinator, said the legislation that resembles the Arizona immigration-reform law could lead to racial profiling and break the trust between law enforcement and immigrant communities.

Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, said the bill could discourage immigrants from reporting crimes. America’s immigration system is broken and does not recognize the contributions immigrants make to Texas and to the nation, he said.

“You got a legal immigration system that takes up to 20 years for people to adjust their status and bring family members in the legal route,” Rodriguez said. “The budget deficit shouldn’t be balanced on the backs of working people, of immigrants that are here wanting to benefit their own and their families’ lives.”

He said the federal government, not the state governments, should be responsible for creating comprehensive immigration reform.

Ramona Casas — a member of A Resource in Serving Equality, which helps immigrants become members of society with community programs and classes — came with over 400 families from the Rio Grande Valley to voice the harm current immigration policies have on border cities and families.

“This affects us because we do a lot of interaction with Mexico and these reforms would affect our economy,” Casas said. “We want them to understand what we believe in as immigrant families, as Tejanos.”

Casas said the organization delivered more than 20,000 signed letters from border families to the Texas Legislature last year.

Rep. Charlie Geren, R-River Oaks, said the bill he authored would not prevent law officials from carrying out their duties and was not influenced by the Arizona immigration law.

“All 254 counties in Texas are checking the immigration status of every person incarcerated, but it’s voluntary by county,” Geren said. “If I can get rid of someone that’s breaking the law, I’m going to get rid of someone that’s breaking the law.”

Reyna said he agreed Texas should not house criminals.

“But I am not a criminal, and I am willing to give back in every way,” he said.
 

Thank you, Student Government, for nothing.

Over the summer, a hurricane ravaged the northern Mexican city of Monterrey. People died, hundreds were injured and thousands were left without any services. It was the worst storm to have hit the Monterrey area in its more than 400-year history.

Because Monterrey is known to be one of the richest cities in Mexico, many organizations hesitated to send assistance promptly. However, there is unimaginable poverty in the city. Thankfully, an international response came, and Monterrey started its recovery. Partial recovery will take at least eight months.

Yes, an international response came, but not from SG. Over the summer, I tried to contact SG President Scott Parks. In a fashion very uncharacteristic of previous SG presidents, he never replied to my e-mails.

I also tried to contact President William Powers Jr. I got an e-mail from his deputy, Charles Roeckle, who referred me to Scott Parks. Even with that recommendation from high above, Parks never replied.

When the crisis in Haiti happened, the University came together, but when the crisis in Mexico happened, we didn’t help. And although there is no comparison between the levels of devastation, our bonds of friendship with Mexico are very strong.

They are our neighbors, brothers and sisters. Many students at UT are Mexican. If we were able to help out in Haiti, why couldn’t we help out Mexico?
Scott: You have a long way to go if you want to live up to the promises of your campaign. At least answer your e-mails! Remember that not answering e-mails got Keshav in big trouble two years ago.

Students: Be aware that Student Government is not as hardworking as they tell you they will be.

Mexican students at UT: You are part of this community, too. Demand more of your Student Government.