2 years after Whiteside was killed, authorities track down ‘Cuz’
MOUNT VERNON —The third and final suspect in the 2006 murder of jeweler and bed-and-breakfast owner Robert Whiteside was arrested Tuesday, Oct. 28, in Cockrell Hill, according to Franklin County Sheriff Chuck White.
White said officers from his department arrested Elbis Torres, 28, shortly before 8 a.m. Tuesday at a home on Phinney Avenue, with the help of officers from the Cockrell Hill Police Department.
Torres was arraigned by a judge in Dallas County on a charge of capital murder the same day. The judge ordered him held without bond, the sheriff said. White said Torres had been transferred to the Franklin County jail by early Tuesday afternoon.
Whiteside was shot to death inside the bed-and-breakfast near Mount Vernon that he owned and operated with his partner, Warren Butler, on Oct. 31, 2006. Butler, who had been on an overnight trip to Dallas, found Whiteside’s body the next day.
Two suspects, Mark Aaron Rains and Jose Ivan Chavez, were arrested shortly after the murder. But although investigators knew the third suspect was called "Cuz" and was apparently related to Chavez, they had been unable to identify Torres until just recently, White said.
"We got his identity through some interviews with other folks and some people identified him through photo lineups," White said. "We had known his identity for a couple of weeks, but we had to corroborate that information before we arrested him."
White also said that Torres is married to Chavez’s niece, "but they called him ‘Cuz’ instead of ‘Nephew,’ because it just sounded tougher, I guess. Nobody wants the nickname ‘Nephew.’"
Rains, who investigators said was the person who actually shot Whiteside, pleaded guilty to murder in July of this year and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Rains also agreed to testify against the other defendants in the case.
Chavez, who had refused to identify his relative as the third suspect, is scheduled to go on trial on capital murder charges in November.
Martin Braddy, district attorney for the 8th Judicial District that includes Franklin County, said that although the case against Chavez is set for trial in November, he expects Chavez will accept a plea agreement before the trial starts.
"I don’t anticipate a trial on this. I think we have worked out a reasonable agreement," Braddy said Wednesday, Oct. 29. "I think it will all be resolved next time he comes to court."
Braddy said in July that according to Rains’ account of the crime, Chavez had once worked briefly at Whiteside’s B&B and knew that Whiteside was also a jeweler who kept precious metals and pieces of jewelry in a workshop on the property.
Rains told officials that he, Chavez and the man now identified as Torres went from Dallas to Mount Vernon on Halloween night in 2006 with the specific intent of forcing Whiteside at gunpoint to open a safe they men thought was on the property and to open the workshop.
Braddy said Whiteside was apparently startled awake when one or more of the suspects entered his bedroom, and Whiteside grabbed a nearby laptop to use as a shield as he tried to run out of the room. Rains shot Whiteside three times as he ran, Braddy said.
The suspects took the laptop, a handgun, a bracelet, some cash and Whiteside’s credit cards. They had intended to break into the workshop where the jewelry was stored, but were scared off by a security camera in the workshop window.
Braddy said the security camera was, in actuality, not even turned on the night of the murder.
Chavez and Torres then left in the vehicle they had driven to the B&B, and Rains left in Whiteside’s truck. He was arrested less than a week later when he used Whiteside’s credit cards in Dallas.
Two other men were arrested in Dallas driving Whiteside’s stolen pickup, but they faced only minor charges since police do not believe they were involved in the robbery or the murder.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 31, 2008.
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