WESLACO, Texas – Investigators suspect suicide in the death of an embattled judge who won a third term despite a widely reported FBI raid of his home and courthouse chambers, authorities said.
The body of State District Judge Ed Aparicio (search), 46, was found Monday shortly after a news release was issued announcing he was resigning to dedicate more time to his family and to personal family matters that required immediate attention.
"The demands of my position as judge have unfortunately taken a toll on my personal life," the judge said. The release did not elaborate.
Aparicio was found dead in a pool of blood in the den of his home after he failed to show up for work. All the doors of the house were locked.
"At this time, it's being investigated as a suicide," Weslaco police spokesman David Molina said. He said he wasn't aware of a suicide note being found.
A semiautomatic pistol and spent shell casing were found next to Aparicio's body. Investigators said he died of a single shot to the head.
District Attorney Rene Guerra (search) said he could not comment on a federal investigation. A telephone call to the judge's attorney was not immediately returned.
Aparicio's chambers and home had been the target of an FBI search in January 2004, when an anti-corruption task force seized dozens of paintings, photos and documents. Federal prosecutors have declined to release details of the search or say what prompted it.
The raid did not stop Hidalgo County (search) voters from re-electing Aparicio to a third term in March 2004. The former Houston attorney was first elected judge in 1997.
Mark Garza, 34, whose 5-year-old son played with Aparicio's son in a Christian basketball league, said the news of Aparicio's death came as a shock.
"He was a good man, the way he spoke about his family, all the time about his kids," he said. "He hardly missed a basketball game."
Garza, who heard about Aparicio's death on the TV news, stood with neighbors near a police car blocking the street as investigators processed the scene. Yellow police tape kept onlookers from Aparicio's home, a country-style white house shaded by giant mesquite trees.
Kathy Walt, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry (search), said the governor had not received a letter of resignation from Aparicio by 5 p.m. Monday.
"While the facts surrounding today's tragic events are not yet fully known, we are all saddened at the needless loss of life," U.S. Attorney Michael Shelby said in a statement.
Several local residents who came to Aparicio's home said they dismissed the FBI raid of Aparicio's home and office as politics.
"It's a shock, a total surprise. A person of his caliber who worked so hard for his re-election," said Jesse Villarreal. "I always supported him. I always felt he was a man who worked very hard. He came through the grass roots to be a judge."
Gustavo Rocha said Aparicio was special to him because he was the judge on a case involving the death of his 3-year-old niece in a drive-by shooting.
"He was a nice judge. He was a good judge. We gave him our vote all the time."
Weslaco is a town of about 25,000 people in the southern tip of Texas near the Mexican border.