MIDLAND, Texas (KMID/KPEJ)- Mario Juan Chacon Jr., 24, was arrested Saturday in connection with the disappearance and subsequent death of 20-year-old Madeline Pantoja, whose body was found in a field last weekend after a 10-day search. Now, an affidavit has revealed new details about the investigation.
According to that affidavit, officers with the Midland Police Department were first alerted to Pantoja’s disappearance around 11:02 p.m. on May 11 after friends and family said they hadn’t heard from her since a little after 8:00 p.m. the previous day. Friend Jasmine Hernandez said she had plans with Pantoja on the 11th; the friends planned to swim at Pantoja’s apartment complex and Hernandez told investigators she went to check on Pantoja after calls and texts went unanswered.
Hernandez told investigators that when she arrived at the apartment, she could see a light on inside from a crack in the door; however, she said she left when her knocks on the door went unanswered. Hernandez said she went to pick up some food but had a “gut feeling that something was wrong” and went back to the apartment one more time. When Hernandez arrived at the apartment a second time, she said the light that had previously been on was now off- that’s when Hernandez called Pantoja’s brother for help.
Hernandez, along with Pantoja’s brother, asked a maintenance worker with the apartment complex to unlock the woman’s door so they could go inside and make sure she was safe- that’s when they discovered that Pantoja’s phone, purse, and keys were inside the home, along with Pantoja’s dog, who had been left without food or water. Those who knew Pantoja said she rarely left her dog alone for more than two hours at a time. The pair also said they noticed that a piece of furniture, a black coffee table, was missing, which they found “extremely odd”.
Those close to Pantoja told investigators that Pantoja and Chacon had been dating and had recently broken up, and said the couple had been arguing on May 10- her brother said he received a call from Chacon around 8:35 p.m. in which Chacon asked him to call his sister on “three-way” because she was ignoring his calls amid an argument- Pantoja’s brother refused, but said he did call and speak with Pantoja and that she “sounded upset” about the argument. He said he texted Pantoja shortly after, but she never responded.
Friends and family said they contacted Chacon, who reportedly had a key to the missing woman’s apartment, in hopes of finding Pantoja but said he “did not appear concerned”. They said Chacon told them he’d been with his dad all day and that his family would verify that he had been home. He reportedly said “I have witnesses” who would confirm he’d been home and also said that he couldn’t drive because he was taking his “anger medication”.
Officers dispatched to do a welfare check on Pantoja quickly contacted detectives and a missing persons investigation began.
Inside Pantoja’s home, investigators saw a “dirty bucket of water” and a mop and noticed that the floor was “extremely sticky as it is when too much cleaning product is used”, the affidavit stated. Investigators also discovered that Pantoja’s bedspread was missing and found a dark red stain on a bedsheet. They also found a hole in the door leading into the bedroom, as well as a hole in the bathroom door, and found hair attached to the damaged doors.
In an interview with neighbors, a woman said she heard a man and woman arguing from inside Pantoja’s apartment the night of the 10th- she also said she heard a woman scream, but said she often heard yelling coming from Pantoja’s apartment and had learned to “tune it out”.
Shortly after midnight on May 12, detectives spoke with Chacon, who said he’d been home all night; he also said he’d last seen Pantoja on May 9. Later that same day, Chacon was interviewed again- in that interview, Chacon said he’d driven to Pantoja’s apartment complex on May 10 to drop off a cousin who lived in the same building. He said he arrived home once again at 11:06 p.m. However, multiple cameras from nearby businesses captured Chacon’s Ford F-250 in the area between 12:26 a.m. and 3:37 a.m.
On May 13, detectives executed a warrant and asked for Chacon’s phone records, but those records were not immediately available.
On May 18, detectives interviewed Chacon once more and told him that they’d found some “lies” within the timeline he first presented- to which Chacon replied, “ok”, and asked to leave the police station. Investigators said they asked Chacon to take a lie-detector, or polygraph, test, but he refused.
Then, on May 20, detectives received Chacon’s phone records from AT&T- that’s when investigators with the Texas Rangers stepped in to map out the area in which Chacon’s cell phone had pinged when Pantoja went missing. The geo-location records reportedly showed Chacon’s phone within a one-mile area around E County Road 190 and South County Road 1138. During a search of that area, investigators found Pantoja’s remains and reportedly identified her by the jewelry she was wearing. A source close to the investigation said Pantoja was found lying in the coffee table that had gone missing from her apartment.
Pantoja has since been taken to Dallas for an autopsy and Chacon was taken into custody and charged with Murder on May 20. He remained in the Midland County Detention Center as of Monday afternoon on $3,000,000 bond.