Two North Texas missionaries found dead in northern Mexico

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by JONATHAN BETZ

WFAA

Posted on February 1, 2012 at 5:27 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 1 at 11:27 PM

Monterrey, Mexico

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LEWISVILLE — Two missionaries from North Texas were murdered in their home outside the violence-plagued northern industrial city of Monterrey, Mexico, the U.S. Embassy and their family said Wednesday.

The U.S. State Department identified the couple as American citizens John and Wanda Sue Casias.

“I’m going to miss her, because she’s so loved,” their daughter Michelle Lumert told News 8. “She is happy, and she’s in a better place.”

She said one of her brothers discovered her parents strangled in their home in Santiago, Nuevo Leon.

The family was originally from Amarillo, Texas, but lived in North Texas before moving to Mexico in 1982 to pursue mission work. The Casias had been married for 40 years and had 10 children and 54 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Several of their children still live in the Dallas area, and the couple remained members of Liberty Baptist Church in Lewisville, which sponsored much of their work in Mexico.

“It’s been awful,” said the church’s pastor, Dick Webster. “Not only were these people missionaries, they were our dear friends.”

Webster said he spoke with the Casias at least once a week, and said the couple often returned to North Texas.

During one visit, Webster admitted telling Mr. Casias, 76, that he was worried about their safety.

“I said, ‘John, is it too dangerous down there for you?’” Webster recalled.  “He said, ‘Those are my people… I’m going to stay with my people,’ and that’s what he did.”

One of their children, Shawn Casias, who lives in Monterrey, said he went to his parents’ home around 4 p.m. Tuesday to pick up a trailer and discovered Wanda Casias, 67, on the floor with an electrical cord around her neck and a gash from a blunt object on her head.

John Casias’ body was found a few hours later in a storage room on the property. Their sprawling home had been ransacked.

Thieves took electronics, a safe and the couple’s Chevrolet Suburban.

As the violence escalated in Mexico, their children said they repeatedly tried to convince their parents to move back to the United States.

“We were concerned about it,” their son, Troy Cave, told News 8, “but it fell on deaf ears. They didn’t care.”

Still, the Casias took precautions. They lived on a 3.5 acre compound in a remote suburb surrounded by 10-foot concrete walls and a sophisticated electronic surveillance system. Their children, however, said the cameras had been disabled before the attack.

“They knew what the risks were,” Cave said. “They wanted to die in Mexico. They just probably thought it would be natural causes.”

The Mexican Consulate in Dallas said authorities in Mexico are investigating, but wouldn’t comment further.

The couple founded four churches in Mexico and maintained a Web site, casias.org, with details of their lives and their missionary work.

“The only hope for the Mexican people today is Jesus in them, the HOPE of glory,” they wrote in one dispatch from last summer. “The cartel has NO mercy or value for life. They are ruthless murderers!”

It was the second slaying involving American missionaries in a year in the Mexican region bordering Texas.

In January 2011, a Texas couple who had been doing missionary work in Mexico for three decades were attacked at an illegal roadblock in one of the country’s most violent areas. Nancy Davis, 59, was fatally shot in the head while her husband, Sam, sped away from suspected drug cartel gunmen who may have wanted to steal their pickup truck, authorities said.

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com

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