Clinton, N.C. — The Sampson County Sheriff's Office called Jose Cruz Avellaneda the prime suspect in the death of his estranged wife, whose body was found near a wooded area near Salemburg Saturday afternoon.
Relatives reported Mary Esther Avellaneda, 38, missing after she and her son, Jose Andres Avellaneda, 13, left their Patterson Lane home Sunday night with Jose Cruz Avellaneda. He returned 20 minutes later, alone, and hasn't been seen since, relatives said.
A man walking in a pasture followed his dog when it wandered across McKenzie Road into a wooded area shortly after 3 p.m., Capt. Eric Pope said. The man saw a body in the woods and called the sheriff's office.
The 13-year-old boy remains missing, and officials believe Jose Cruz Avellaneda might be in Mexico.
The wooded area where Mary Avellaneda's body was found lies in the community of Bearskin, not far from her Salemburg home.
The red icon denotes where Mary Avellaneda’s body was found. The blue icon denotes the house from which she and her son went missing.
Officials classified Mary Avellaneda's death as a homicide but were waiting on the results of an autopsy at the Sampson Regional Medical Center to determine the exact cause of death, Pope said.
“It just came out of the blue. I mean, we never thought he was going to be that way,” her brother, John Anthony Garcia, said.
Family members told authorities Friday that Jose Andres Avellaneda is staying with his father's relatives in Mexico. However, the sheriff's office could not corroborate that information with law enforcement and still consider the teen a missing person.
“We’re dealing with two separate countries. We’re having to rely upon authorities in another country, and the biggest factor is determining where exactly in Mexico we need to focus our efforts so we can utilize the proper law enforcement agency there,” Pope said.
Jose Cruz Avellaneda's 1995 four-door, white Chevrolet Lumina was found at a truck stop in San Antonio, Texas, Thursday night, but no one was in or around it, Pope said. The Avellaneda family lived in San Antonio at one time.
Anyone who might have information about the case can call the Sampson County Sheriff's Office at 910-592-4141.