Santos Botello, Jose Ybarra Leyva, Ricardo Posada and Jaime Posada Jr. have been charged with murder in connection with the death of Francisco Esparza. Only Leyva has posted the $250,000 bond.
Esparza was shot and killed on May 23 along the side of FM 517 near Algoa-Friendswood, not far from the nursery where he worked.
According to court documents, Esparza's 19-year-old son believes his father's murder was retaliatory in nature. The son told investigators that the family had a history with Leyva, who had claimed in the past that the victim's son was possessed by demons.
The son, at the time a high school senior, said he had first met Levya at a school athletic event. Leyva, who told investigators that he is a Mexican card reader, allegedly said "he felt something was wrong" with the victim's son, claiming that he was supposed to die at birth but was somehow kept alive by his parents. The son said Leyva showered him with more than $1,600 in gifts including food, clothing and jewelry.
Investigators said Leyva claimed the young man was possessed by a demon he dubbed the Black Reaper, which Leyva claimed could only be extracted from his body through oral sex from another man.
According to court documents, Leyva is said to practice witchcraft and told the victim's son he could combat other dangerous spirits in his body through prayer sessions involving erotic, full body oil massages.
"Do you practice witchcraft?" asked reporter Jessica Willey outside Leyva's house near Alvin where an altar is clearly visible. Leyva answered "no" as he walked away to go inside. He said his attorney told him not to talk to anyone.
After multiple prayer sessions, Leyva offered to have sexual intercourse with the young man to cure him, but he refused, a court affidavit alleges.
The son told investigators that his sessions with Levya left him feeling traumatized and that, with the support of his family, he decided not to participate in future sessions, which he alleged led to his father's death.
In what may be a related incident, the son said Levya was present during a May 6 incident at an Alvin restaurant in which the son was stabbed by an unknown assailant.
Leyva was not physically present during Esparza's May 23 murder. Investigators used phone records to link Leyva to the other three suspects in the killing. According to charging documents, Levya made extensive contact with Botello in the week leading up to Esparza's murder, including phone calls immediately before and after the shooting.
When confronted with phone records, Leyva allegedly told investigators that Botello and the Posadas were supposed to "beat someone up...not to kill nobody." Investigators said both Posada brothers admitted that they were under the impression the trio was only going to commit a robbery. Ricardo Posada claimed that Botello shot Esparza several times as he walked up to the Ford F150 in which he, his brother and Botello were traveling.
A wrecker driver passing the scene observed the shooting and provided authorities with photographs and video evidence eventually used to locate the three men.
Galveston County Sheriff's investigators admit they are still working to determine a motive and whether the violence is truly tied to spirit cleansing and witchcraft.
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