Child endangerment case to appear before grand jury, accused Fort Stockton man held without bond

ALPINE — Hector Flores Jr. — a Fort Stockton resident currently facing child endangerment charges after he and his daughter went missing in Big Bend National Park — was denied bail at a court hearing on Friday, with the presiding judge deciding his case will proceed to a grand jury. 

Flores has been detained in Brewster County Jail since February 15, the day after he and his nine-year-old daughter were found in Mexico after having gone missing in the national park 10 days prior. The two were found near Boquillas Del Carmen, a significant distance away from Flores’ vehicle that was found abandoned on Old Ore Road. Investigators found they had made the journey on foot, and the child had gone roughly two weeks without food.

Flores’ initial preliminary court hearing last Wednesday saw Judge David Fannin of the U.S. District Court Western District of Texas presiding over the case, with criminal defense attorney Shane O’Neal representing Flores and Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Greenbaum representing the government. Special Agent Alice Downie of the FBI was brought in to testify in the case, and while additional details were revealed regarding the events leading up to the disappearance — including that Flores seemed to have planned the disappearance well in advance — the judge had not yet made a decision regarding Flores’ bond.  

When Flores’ preliminary hearing reconvened on Friday, February 25, the judge ultimately ordered he would be detained without bond. Since the court met on Wednesday, Judge Fannin said he had time to consider the situation and review evidence.

Judge Fannin recounted the series of events: Flores pulled L.F. out of school, allowed his phone to be disconnected, left Fort Stockton without notifying friends or family, abandoned his vehicle and multiple forms of identification in the national park, and avoided detection while crossing into Mexico illegally. These factors led him to determine the only way to ensure Flores would appear in further court proceedings was to detain him without bond. 

He said Flores’ actions can be deemed as ill-considered, reckless, and put his 9-year-old daughter’s safety in jeopardy. The judge cited Downie’s testimony, which said Flores went to extreme lengths to avoid apprehension all the while exposing his daughter to the elements and not providing adequate food. 

The court first discussed Flores’ housing options should he be released on bond, with Flores’ attorney O’Neal arguing for his release under the condition he find a suitable residence. Between pretrial services determining his previous address unsuitable and O’Neal presenting the option of a halfway house in Midland with an available bed mid-March, Flores’ housing situation was unresolved and ill-timed, leaving a gap in housing from potential release to the halfway house, which presented concerns for Greenbaum. Additionally, pretrial services did not confirm whether or not he could be employed back at the Fort Stockton supermarket where he previously worked. 

A grand jury will decide whether to bring an indictment against Flores, at which point he will either plead guilty or go to trial. 

The U.S. Attorney’s office did not respond to requests for comment regarding this case. Flores’ attorney O’Neal did not return a request for comment.