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A body found along a Texas river has been positively identified as a teenage boy who disappeared in October, according to authorities.
Benjamin "Tank" Loera, 16, disappeared from his hometown of Vanderbilt on Oct. 26, 2021, according to a news release from the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office. Loera was found on Dec. 20, 2021, in a “brushy area” near the Guadalupe River in Seguin, Texas. Several agencies assisted in the nearly two-month-long search, including the Seguin Police Department, the Guadalupe County Sheriff’s Office, and the Texas Rangers.
The Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office used dental records to confirm Loera’s identity on Monday.
“Benjamin’s death is being ruled as a homicide, and as of this date, three people are in custody in Jackson County on charges relating to Benjamin’s disappearance,” said the Guadalupe County Sheriff’s Office. “Additional charges are expected in the following days.”
County and State law enforcement agencies investigated Loera’s disappearance when he failed to return home from a friend’s house after playing video games, according to the Victoria Advocate. Loera’s mother, Jessica McKinney, reported him missing the next day when she could not get ahold of him on his phone.
Earlier this month, before the discovery of Loera’s body, authorities informed the public that they’d made three arrests on charges of aggravated kidnapping and aggravated assault.
“Investigators have found that this was a planned criminal episode and not a random act of violence,” said the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office. “Please be reassured that there is no immediate threat to the public.”
Kyler Ray Rector, 19, was charged on Nov. 23, and Casey Wayne Jenschke, 23, was charged on Nov. 29 in connection to Lorea’s disappearance, according to the Advocate. Both men were already in custody on separate charges.
A third suspect, a 15-year-old female juvenile, was also detained.
Citing Jackson County Chief Deputy Craig Kirkpatrick and a spokeswoman from the jail, the Advocate reported Rector was arrested on Nov. 4 for drug possession. Four days later, he was charged with the sexual assault of a child. Rector was later charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and burglary of a vehicle.
Jenschke was arrested on a warrant charging him with unauthorized use of a vehicle on Nov. 9.
It was unclear whether the earlier charges against Rector and Jenschke were related to Loera’s disappearance.
The victim’s mother told the Advocate that Loera was with Jenschke before he disappeared.
In a GoFundMe page created by Jessica McKinney before confirmation of her son’s death, McKinney said Loera helped care for his 13-year-old sisters with autism.
“Ben has spent 13 years doing therapy and coping skills training with the twins to get them to the level of function they are,” said McKinney. “He would NEVER CHOOSE to leave them this way. Something is wrong.”
According to jail records, Rector is due to appear in court on Feb. 28, 2022.
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