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Tuesday, October 4, 2022
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Update: Brother of Davis Street shooting victim charged with murder

Updated from the article published at 10:30 p.m. on June 11.

The brother of Stephanie Paniagua, the 19-year-old victim of a shooting that occurred Sunday, June 7 on Davis Street, was charged with her slaying today.

The Wharton Police Department formally charged Julio Sesar Paniagua, 21, with murder.

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“Our investigation is based on facts,” Wharton Police Department Chief Terry Lynch told The County Gin. “The initial outcry from the suspect when we first arrived did not align with the facts that we were finding during the investigation. Since that time, we’ve worked hard. The department has worked hard and the detectives and the officers put in a lot of man hours to make sure that the facts were uncovered.”

Paniagua has been held in the custody of the Wharton County Jail with a $100,000 bond since June 11, when he was arrested on a charge of tampering or fabricating physical evidence with the intent to impair.

“The initial charge was tampering and it was something that was tied up pretty quick,” Lynch said. “We knew that we were going to move forward with the murder charge.”

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The case is under investigation in the care of lead detective Ariel Soltura, with assistance by the Texas Rangers — an agency that often collaborates with local law enforcement.

“We work frequently with the Texas Rangers on major crimes. We have a history of working with them in the past,” the WPD chief told The Gin. “They have access to great resources that we as a municipal level do not. They have access to a lot of the state resources. That’s why we partner with them in these cases.”

Police encourage individuals with information regarding the offense to contact the department at (979) 532-3131 or to submit information anonymously through the P3 app.

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WPD makes first arrest in case

Photo courtesy of the Wharton County Sheriff’s Office

Updated from the article published at 5:03 p.m. on Tuesday, June 9.

The Wharton Police Department has made its first arrest in the Davis Street shooting that occurred Sunday, June 7, claiming the life of Stephanie Paniagua, 19.

“Wharton police was able to canvass the area using the description given to us by Stephanie’s brother, Julio Paniagua, while simultaneously securing the crime scene and interviewing those closest to Stephanie,” the department said.

‘As the department believes in extreme transparency, we try to share as much info as possible without compromising the integrity of the case.’

According to WPD, an arrest warrant was secured for Julio Paniagua, 21, based on the evidence found on-scene.

Photo from Julio Paniagua’s Facebook page.

He is charged with tampering or fabricating physical evidence with the intent to impair.

The warrant was executed on June 11 without incident.

Paniagua is currently being held on $100,000 bond.

“The Wharton Police Department, along with the Texas Rangers, continue to investigate this case,” the department said, “and do encourage those with useful information to contact our police department.”

Individuals with any information regarding the incident are asked to contact WPD at (979) 532-3131 or anonymously via the P3 app.

Department releases identity of 19-year-old victim

Updated from the original article published at 11:04 p.m. on Sunday, June 7.

The Wharton Police Department has released the name of the 19-year-old victim in the shooting incident that occurred in the afternoon of Sunday, June 7.

According to WPD, the body of Stephanie Paniagua has been transported to Fort Bend for an autopsy. Investigators are currently awaiting the results.

Stephanie Paniagua is a 2019 Wharton High School graduate and attended Sam Houston State University in Huntsville.

“As the department believes in extreme transparency, we try to share as much info as possible without compromising the integrity of the case,” lead Det. Ariel Soltura told The County Gin. “At this time, and via our Facebook page, we’ve released as much info as we can. Our future updates will come via our Facebook page.”

Deceased female discovered at Davis Street home

Approximately 20 minutes before Wharton Police Department Chief Terry Lynch took the stage at a community prayer event, police responded to the 400 block of Davis Street ­— mere blocks from the courthouse lawn.

Six hours later — long after the crowds had all gone home — a statement was released by WPD at 9:50 p.m. 

At 3:06 p.m. detectives responded to the scene to discover a deceased female and secured the area. 

According to WPD, a witness stated that an unknown person wearing all black, including a black COVID mask, was seen running out of the home in an unknown direction.

“Alternate scenarios are being investigated and pursued,” the department stated. 

By 8:40 p.m., detectives had cleared the scene in order to interview persons of interest, Chief Lynch told The County Gin.

The case is under the direction of lead Det. Ariel Soltura. 

Individuals with any information regarding the incident are asked to contact WPD at (979) 532-3131 or anonymously via the P3 app.

Natalie Frels-Busbyhttps://www.thecountygin.com
Natalie Frels-Busby is the former editor-in-chief of The County Gin.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for covering this in detail from beginning to end. Such a rough story and sad all around for the family and our community.

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