WATCH: Arrest made in 2003 cold case murder of Cynthia Palacio

DNA cracks 2003 murder case

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - It has been 17 years since the murder of 21-year-old Cynthia Joann Palacio in Lubbock. Now, authorities say the murder has been solved.

Cynthia Palacio, 21, was found half naked on a county road near Slaton, Texas in 2003. She died from asphyxiation. For 17 years, her murder was unsolved. On Sept. 4, 2020, officials announced an arrest had been made.
Cynthia Palacio, 21, was found half naked on a county road near Slaton, Texas in 2003. She died from asphyxiation. For 17 years, her murder was unsolved. On Sept. 4, 2020, officials announced an arrest had been made. (Source: Texas Department of Public Safety)

An investigation into the harassment of a Waco realtor led to the discovery. Authorities say 57-year-old Andy Castillo has been arrested and charged with Palacio’s murder.

Andy Castillo, 57. Mugshot from Jan. 2020 arrest.
Andy Castillo, 57. Mugshot from Jan. 2020 arrest. (Source: Lubbock County Detention Center)

“One of our duties in law enforcement is to pursue every lead and seek justice for victims and their families, even when the case runs cold,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “I’m proud of the diligent efforts by the Texas Rangers and the Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office to solve this nearly two-decade-old case and find justice for a young woman who was brutally murdered.”

In January, Castillo was arrested by Lubbock PD in connection with the harassment of some Waco-area real estate agents who said they were receiving lewd messages from someone threatening to rape their children.

The McLennan County Sheriff’s Office human trafficking team used technology and intel to track down Castillo in Lubbock.

During the investigation, deputies found possibly 100 realtors in around 20 cities and 10 states had been harassed by Castillo.

Lubbock Police took a DNA sample from Castillo before he was taken to Waco. Once in Waco, he was charged with one count of stalking and two counts of criminal solicitation-aggravated sexual assault of a child.

LCSO 2003 Murder News Conference - 09/04/2020 - clipped version

McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara says, “A lot of women have been victimized by this creep.”

Authorities say one of those women was Cynthia Palacio.

“There’s no question in our mind that he committed this murder,” said McNamara.

In July of 2003, around 7 a.m., a mother with her young daughter in the car saw something in the distance, and wondered if it was real. After a 911 call and an investigation, police confirmed a young woman’s body, naked from the waist down, was dumped on a county road not far from Slaton, Texas. She was identified as Cynthia Palacio. She had a 2-year-old daughter at the time.

Now, because of the investigation into Andy Castillo, the Texas Rangers have matched the semen found on her thigh, along with other DNA evidence obtained from her fingernails, blouse and necklace to Castillo, who is still an inmate in the McLennan County Jail.

Linda Trevino Carbajal
Linda Trevino Carbajal

In 2005, investigators linked the murder of Palacio to another murder that happened in April of 2004. Palacio’s roommate, 21-year-old Linda Carbajal, who was found partially nude on a County Road near New Deal. Investigators say DNA evidence confirmed the two murders were connected.

The Assistant Police Chief in 2014, Deputy Doug Sutton, told KCBD he believed the vehicle that dumped Palacio’s body may have been a pickup or vehicle with heavy tires. He believed it could be the same truck that dumped Carbajal’s body a year later.

Palacio and Carbajal were roommates, born in the same month of the same year, both 21-years-old when they died, and both dumped on remote county roads.

On November 13, 2002, KCBD interviewed Carbajal in the Lubbock County Jail. She had just been arrested for prostitution. “It’s very dangerous. I ask myself sometimes why...I’m surprised I’m alive to this day,” Carbajal said.

“I’ve been through a lot,” she said. “I’ve had my friends killed in front of me. I’ve seen a lot.”

She was jailed 39 times. In the 2002 interview, Carbajal told KCBD that this time would be the last because she wanted to better herself for her daughter and grandmother because “life is too short.”

One year later, she was found dead.

With the Palacio’s murder now added to Castillo’s charges, his bonds now total more than $1.5 million.

At some point, Castillo will be brought back to Lubbock to stand trial.

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