Police arrested a 24-year-old man on suspicion of murder over a week after his girlfriend went missing and left several personal items behind.
Twenty-year-old Madeline Pantoja was reported missing to the Midland Police Department on May 11 and was reportedly last seen the day prior. In a news conference several days later, Midland Police Chief Seth Herman said the department implemented missing person protocol and searched 60 square miles of a remote area, executed search warrants, interviewed 25 people, and followed up on tips from Crime Stoppers.
KOSA-TV reports officials found Pantoja’s body Saturday, May 20, and then arrested her boyfriend, Mario Chacon.
According to the affidavit cited by KOSA, some of Pantoja’s friends went to her apartment May 11 to go swimming, but she never answered the door. At one point, a light that had been on inside the apartment turned off. The friends contacted her brother, who then called Chacon to ask if he knew Pantoja’s whereabouts. Chacon allegedly was not straightforward with his answers, and he ignored her friends’ calls. When they finally made contact with him, he allegedly said he “had witnesses for today and has been at his house all day.”
The friends reportedly got a maintenance worker to open the door to Pantoja’s apartment and saw she left her puppy behind without food or water, which they said was unlike her. Pantoja’s cellphone, car keys, and purse were reportedly still inside her apartment, too. A coffee table in her living room had also disappeared. The friends then called police.
According to KMID-TV, which also cites the affidavit, officers went to Pantoja’s apartment and found a “dirty bucket of water” near the door. They reportedly noted the floor was “extremely sticky as it is when too much cleaning product is used.” Investigators allegedly found a red mark on her bed and holes in some of the doors.
Surveillance footage reportedly showed Chacon driving in the area the night Pantoja disappeared. Cellphone pings also reportedly put him in the same area where her body was found near East County Road 190 and South County Road 1138.
Pantoja’s remains were sent to the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy and positive identification.
Chacon is currently being held in the Midland County Jail on $3 million bond.