Juan Leon Laureles
In 1996, Juan “Leon” Laureles was a 30-year-old uncle, family member, and friend living near the town of Brownwood, Texas. Leon was the youngest of nine children. He was especially close with his niece, Arlene, as the two were just a few years apart in age. Leon was known as the type of person who stepped in whenever his friends and family needed help.
On May 10, 1996, Leon left his brother’s home in his 1988 Ford Thunderbird to head to his overnight shift at a local Kroger. Coworkers saw Leon’s car in the parking lot around 11:45 p.m.; however, he never made it inside. Leon’s car was gone by midnight, the time his shift was set to begin, along with a car that was parked next to him.
About 30 minutes later, a 9-1-1 caller reported that Leon’s car was in flames on the side of rural FM2126, just outside of Brentwood and roughly a 10-minute drive from his work. Leon was found laying beside his car, having suffered a gunshot in the back of his head. Investigators were unable to recover evidence from Leon’s burning car. The only known witness is the 9-1-1 caller, who didn’t see anything but a truck passing slowly by the scene.
In the days prior to his murder, Leon told his sister that he felt people were going to hurt him, but he wasn’t sure why. Leon had no known enemies. Those close to Leon knew he was gay. Leon was not openly gay, given the bigotry he might face as a Hispanic, gay man in a conservative small town in the 1990s. It is believed Leon could have been the victim of a hate crime. Another possibility is that he saw something that he was not supposed to see.
Arlene, along with the rest of Leon’s family, are still searching for answers 26 years after he was taken from them. If you have any information regarding the murder of Leon Laureles, please click the Submit a Tip button below or contact the Brown County Sherriff’s Department at 325-646-5510.