Share story

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) — A U.S. Border Patrol agent has been charged in the death of a man whose decapitated body was found floating near Texas’ South Padre Island, a sheriff said Friday.

Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio said Joel Luna might be tied to a Mexican drug cartel through his two brothers but that the investigation is still ongoing.

Luna is charged with capital murder, engaging in organized criminal activity and tampering with evidence. He’s accused in the death of Honduran native Jose Francisco “Franklin” Rodriguez Palacios Paz, whose body was found in March.

Luna is jailed without bond. Jail records didn’t list an attorney for the 30-year-old Luna, who has worked as a Border Patrol agent for six years.

Fishermen found Paz’s body off the shore of South Padre Island, which is a popular spring break destination in South Texas. Paz had been working as a mechanic in Edinburg, about 80 miles west of the island, and had been missing for about five days. Investigators said his body had been mutilated.

Lucio said the arrest of four individuals in June for the death eventually led authorities to Luna, who was arrested Thursday at his home in Hebbronville.

Authorities said investigators found a safe at Luna’s home that contained nearly $90,000, roughly a kilo of cocaine and several handguns.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Luna has been placed on administrative leave.

“We do not tolerate corruption or abuse within our ranks, and we fully cooperate with any criminal or administrative investigation of alleged misconduct by any of our personnel, on or off duty,” the agency said in a statement.