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Agent sexually assaults family, kidnaps girl, commits suicide

Ildefonso Ortiz, The Monitor

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FW:  March 21,2014

Border Patrol attack A Border Patrol agent in an unmarked vehicle drives out of U.S. Fish and Wildlife land where a fellow agent was suspected of stabbing a woman and a child, as well as kidnapping another child Wednesday

NEAR ABRAM — A U.S. Border Patrol agent apparently committed suicide after kidnapping and assaulting an immigrant family that illegally crossed the border Wednesday evening, investigators said.

Border Patrol agent Esteban Manzanares, 32, sexually assaulted and slashed a woman, her 14-year-old daughter and another 14-year-old girl with a knife Wednesday afternoon, leaving the mother and one daughter behind before he took the other teen with him, three law enforcement officials unauthorized to speak to the media confirmed.

Manzanares' ex-wife, Susana, said she had just learned of Esteban's suicide from an FBI agent.

"I didn't know anything, just that he killed himself," she said. "That's the only thing that they told me.

The FBI and U.S. Customs and Border Protection have made brief statements Thursday acknowledging the agent’s death and that the three victims were kidnapped, but have provided few details about what actually happened and have not said whether a motive has been identified in the case.

The FBI confirmed an active investigation into the kidnapping and assault of three unauthorized immigrants, saying a Border Patrol agent is the focus of the probe and that his body was found in his residence. The agency is working with Homeland Security Investigations, Mission police and the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office.

In its statement, CBP said it was working a “search and recovery operation following the encountering of an injured adult female during regular CBP operations who provided information that she and two other females had been assaulted by a male subject.”

Law enforcement officers working and briefed on the case described a grisly series of events that led to the agent’s suicide early Thursday morning.

The agent encountered the group Wednesday afternoon near Abram in a brushy area not far from the Rio Grande, where he raped the woman and then slashed her wrists, an investigator familiar with the case said.

Soon after and while still in the general area, the agent raped the woman’s 14-year-old daughter and tried to break her neck, causing her to pass out, the official said.

The agent then took the other 14-year-old girl and drove her to his apartment on the 4300 block of South Shary Road, where he tied her up and stuffed a sock in her mouth so she could not cry for help.

The agent then went back to work to finish his shift. Afterward, just before midnight Thursday, he went home and sexually assaulted the girl, two law enforcement officials confirmed.

The woman, who is believed to have been an unauthorized immigrant from Honduras, told authorities that the man that had taken her girl was wearing a green uniform — Border Patrol’s color, one of the law enforcement officials said.

Shortly after, agents found the second victim and searched for the third one.

When authorities arrived at the agent’s apartment just before midnight, they heard a gunshot and waited for a Mission Police SWAT team to enter into the building, two law enforcement officials said.

“Overnight, the Mission Police Department entered into the personal residence of a Border Patrol agent after further information was obtained. Upon entry, Mission PD Department, together with CBP and other law enforcement entities, found the agent deceased and discovered the third female,” the agency said in their prepared statement

Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño said the FBI is leading the investigation into the events, with his office providing assistance.

Treviño said his crime scene investigators were working the scene, but that he would not comment on the details of their work or the case itself.

“We will continue to work to ensure that incidents like this to not occur in the future,” the CBP statement reads. “CBP takes this incident extremely seriously and we are fully cooperating with the investigation. CBP holds its employees to the highest ethical standards. We stand ready to take any additional action necessary, pending the investigation.”