Murder of journalist in Texas could be linked to his reporting

Jacinto (Jay) Torres Hernández, a journalist, photographer and real estate agent living in Texas, was found with a gunshot wound to the chest late June 13 in the backyard of a house in the city of Garland, according to newspaper La Estrella.

His wife and two children, Gibrán and Aline Torres, suspect that his death could be related to his work, as stated at a June 15 press conference.

The 57-year-old journalist was a native of Monterrey, Mexico, but had lived in Dallas since 1979. For 20 years, he contributed to newspaper La Estrella, a Spanish-language publication of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram daily newspaper.

It appears that Torres disappeared on the afternoon of June 10 after inspecting a house for his real estate business. His daughter, Aline Torres, said that he was not heard from after that day, according to Noticieros Televisa.

At the press conference organized by the Torres family, Aline Torres emphasized that her father was working on stories related to human trafficking and illegal immigration. Likewise, his son Gibrán said that months before his death, his father was looking for information to install a security system at home, as reported by Al Día Dallas.

Recently his work was more intense, more risky,” Aline Torres said at the press conference, according to Al Día Dallas. According to that media outlet, she also said that her father’s work was “lifting stones that perhaps people did not want lifted.”

The executive director of La Estrella, Juan Antonio Ramos, said that days before the alleged murder of Torres, he and the journalist talked about the last story that he was investigating for the newspaper, but that “at no time” did they think there was a risk.

“We urge authorities to thoroughly investigate the murder of Jay Torres, including whether his journalistic work was the motive for his death,” said Carlos Lauría, senior program coordinator for the Americas at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

As reported by Al Día Dallas, Torres’s son said that his father’s business partner was the one who found the body and reported it to the police. Apparently, Jay Torres planned to buy the house to remodel and resell it.

When authorities found Jay Torres’ body, it had been outside for several days, according to the police report..

After June 14, the medical examiner of Dallas County ruled the death a homicide and police classified the case as such. There were no signs that his death was a result of a robbery. According to the statements of Jay Torres’ children, the police suspect that Torres knew his attacker.

According to Garland Police Lt. Pedro Barineau, Jay Torres was well-known within the community so they believed that “someone has to know something about what happened,” the Star-Telegram reported.

According to the Star-Telegram, Torres wrote and photographed as part of his reporting, covering various topics of the Hispanic community in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

“Jay was a very dedicated and caring person, he kept us informed about his work, for this reason his killing is alarming and worrisome,” executive director Ramos said to La Estrella.

A journalist and close friend of Torres, Rebecca Aguilar, told News 8 that her friend did not have enemies and that he believed in Buddhist teachings of nonviolence.

One of the journalistic works of Torres, who was also an active member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) of Texas, won the 2011 award for best reporting in Spanish from the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors.

Two other freedom of expression organizations, the France-based Reporters Without Borders and the Inter American Press Association, demanded that local authorities thoroughly investigate Torres’ murder.

According to CPJ, since 1992, less than seven journalists have been killed in the United States because of their work.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.