Hector Flores Jr. re-arrested as he appeals judgment in BBNP child endangerment case

PECOS — Hector Flores Jr., the Fort Stockton man found guilty of child endangerment after vanishing with his young daughter in Big Bend National Park earlier this year, has been arrested for violating the terms of his probation as he moves to appeal the court’s judgment.

After being found guilty by a Pecos jury, Flores was sentenced in September to five years probation and was ordered by U.S. District Judge David Counts to undergo psychological evaluation, mental health treatment and parenting classes. Flores’ attorney, Shane O’Neal, has appealed the conviction to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. At the time of the sentencing, O’Neal told The Big Bend Sentinel that he would appeal the judgment on the grounds that Flores’ 9-year-old daughter was not placed in imminent physical danger when her father took her into Big Bend National Park and crossed with her into Mexico on foot.

On October 24, court records show, Judge Counts issued a warrant for Flores’ arrest on the grounds that he had violated the terms of his probation, which forbade the unlawful use or possession of a controlled substance and the possession of firearms. In a drug test, Flores tested positive for cocaine, and a home search revealed several rifles in his possession, according to a petition filed with the court.

Flores was arrested in San Antonio and ordered on November 9 to be returned to Pecos, where his case resides.

Flores became the subject of a multi-agency, cross-border manhunt in February when he and his daughter, identified in court documents as L.F., were declared missing after entering Big Bend National Park. Their car and personal items were found off Old Ore Road, a very remote part of the park, and the pair were found over a week later by Mexican authorities on the other side of the border, near Boquillas Del Carmen. FBI Agent Alice Downie, who assisted in the investigation, testified that they had to traverse at least 20 miles of rugged desert terrain, sometimes in subfreezing temperatures, to reach the border, and that Flores and the child did not have adequate clothing, food or water. L.F. had told authorities that they ran out of food three days into the journey.

Downie also testified that Flores seemed to have planned the excursion in advance — he had checked out survivalist books from the library, expressed a desire to live off the grid and pulled his daughter out of school in January.

But while the prosecution argued that Flores had “intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence” taken part in activities that put his daughter in imminent danger, O’Neal argued that Flores undertook the journey on foot into Mexico because his car broke down, and that L.F. was never in any real physical danger, having not been hospitalized upon discovery. 

The appeals process remains in the early stages. As for the probation violation, Flores’ probation officer has recommended the terms of his supervision be revoked. Flores awaits a hearing at which the probation will either be continued or revoked.