The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

March 17, 2014

Suicide, allegations stun border agent's family

MISSION, Texas (AP) — Esteban Manzanares was working his regular day shift as a U.S. Border Patrol agent along the busiest stretch of Mexican border when a trio of Honduran immigrants spotted him and offered to surrender.

A woman, her teenage daughter and a teenage family friend later told authorities they were taken into custody and driven away from a popular county park just north of the Rio Grande and upriver to a more remote, scrub brush-filled area. It was there, in this rugged no-man's land between the river and a stretch of rust-covered steel border fence, that the older woman says the group was assaulted by a man wearing green fatigues who left the area with one of the girls.

Based on the woman's description of the attacker's clothing and his vehicle, investigators quickly concluded the suspect was likely a U.S. Border Patrol agent, according a federal law enforcement official.

More than seven hours after the older woman was first spotted Wednesday, her wrists cut and bloodied, agents from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement found Manzanares dead in his apartment from what investigators have described as a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The missing teenager was there, too, bound and naked.

Manzanares' family has no idea what could have led the Border Patrol agent to his apparent suicide. They said allegations that he kidnapped and assaulted the women were even harder to comprehend.

"Honestly, I don't know," Manzanares' ex-wife, Susana Manzanares said Sunday. "It's really hard to believe."

She and Esteban Manzanares met online about 10 years ago. She described him as a sweet, kind-hearted man who helped strangers. They married in 2006.

The pair divorced earlier this year, but Susana Manzanares, 30, said they remained friendly and spoke often, usually about their 6-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter, both of whom have cystic fibrosis.

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