Overview of Juan Leon Laureles
Juan "Leon" Laureles grew up in a small Texas town, the youngest of 9 children to a traditional Mexican Catholic immigrant family.
Quiet and shy, he grew up caring for his aging parents, spending much of his time with his niece Arlene. Two years apart, they joined the Brady High School band together, Leon playing trumpet as they traveled with the football team. After graduation, he moved to Brownwood to follow his niece, now married with two children.
“He was my everything and now he’s gone. It’s still just as hard for me as it was that day. He had just turned 30 that January. He was a really big guy, but he was pretty shy. He was more like just a gentle giant teddy bear. He was very caring and giving. He would always buy all of his co-workers birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, take them shopping, take them out to eat.” - Arlene Harbison, Leon’s niece.
They had family in Brownwood, and Arelene found a good job, and Leon, a supportive helper by nature, began caring for Arlene's boys by day, and working at Kroger's as a grocery clerk by night. He started making friends through the grocery store and enjoyed time with his family. Leon loved dancing, cooking and was known for wearing bright white sneakers.
But Leon carried with him a very heavy secret in a small, conservative, Christian town, one that may have cost him his life: He was gay.
Weeks and days before the murder, Leon reported to friends and family that an unknown person harassed and threatened him without reason.
The morning before his murder, he shared with his sister that someone was harassing him. That night, he left for his graveyard shift at his usual time, 11:30pm so he could socialize with the outgoing staff and catch up on their day.
It was awarm Thursday as he headed to Kroger's in his 1988 Thunderbird, likely singing along to his favorite diva, Celine Dion. Although seen briefly in the parking lot, He never made it to his shift. His body was found 30 minutes later next to his 1988 black Ford Thunderbird, set ablaze, and shot in the back of the head.
Two people call 911 and report a car on fire.
Two 911 callers passing by reported a car on fire as they passed a secluded rifle range on Farm to Market Road 2126, just outside of Brownwood. Emergency services responded within minutes and found a dead body lying face down 6 ft. in front of Leon's 1988 Thunderbird. Sheriff and Texas Ranger Bobby Grubbs responded, the Sheriff's department recusing themselves due to a "conflict of interest." Groner Pitts, the local undertaker responsible for Brownwood autopsies happened to own the rifle range. He is seen at the crime scent in the Brownwood Bulletin consulting on the case. To this day, the family questions whether the autopsy was performed as no report will be released.
Where the case stands today.
The case is officially open by the Texas Rangers, and they "look at it from time to time" according to a secretary. His niece Arlene advocates for Leon, and hits many walls from local authorities who want to remain tight-lipped on the investigation, despite no new information since 1996.
If you have any information regarding Leon's murder, please contact the Brown County Sheriff's Office at (325) 646-5510 or the Heart of Texas Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS (8477).