Cold case: Who killed Frank Urrutia?
It was the middle of September 2011, and Paul Urrutia was preparing to head out of town to watch his son play football. It was nearing the end of a long, hot and dry summer.
“I remember. It was at the time of the Bastrop fires, we had to play the game a day earlier —Wednesday,” he said.
As it had been on many occasions, his brother Frank would fill in as a babysitter. Only this time something was wrong. Frank was missing — never to be seen alive again.
This article is part one of a monthly series the San Marcos Daily Record will be publishing regarding local unsolved crimes that have occurred over the years. Law enforcement officials with the San Marcos Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division hope by keeping cases like these in the forefront, local residents will help bring closure to family members affected, and justice to those who perpetrated these crimes.
On Friday the 16th, days after Frank has gone missing, a Game Warden with Texas Parks and Wildlife was patrolling the Blanco River near the turnaround under Interstate 35, searching for illegal hunters. What he discovered, around 6:30 p.m., was the lifeless body of the 51-year-old. He had been beaten to death.
What began as hours turned into days – where was Frank, his family asked?
“This was not like him,” said older brother Joe. “He was well known, and we couldn’t find him. I told my sister to call the police and report it.”
So, she did. She even reported Frank was last seen at a friend’s apartment on Jackson Lane Tuesday, Sept. 13. Furthermore, she spoke with her missing brother on Sunday, Sept. 11.
But, she too wondered what had become of her brother, even going to his residence on Durango St., Wednesday the 14th. What she discovered was unsettling. Frank’s lights and television were still on – and his vehicle missing.
“There were a lot of stories going around,” said his brother Sammy. “Some say he was seen at Jack’s Roadhouse but we’re not sure. That’s what makes this so frustrating.”
DPS investigators pored over Urrutia’s GMC pickup while it was at their crime lab in Austin. Photo courtesy of SMPD
Who was Frank Urrutia?
Frank graduated from San Marcos High School in 1979. In 1980, he was in a violent car accident. His injuries were so severe doctors were not sure he would live.
“They had to amputate his arm due to an infection,” said Paul. “It was either that or he wouldn’t have made it.”
In addition to losing his right arm, Frank sustained disfiguring facial lacerations and the loss of his right ear.
“But that didn’t stop him,” Paul said. “He’d still go dancing, swimming, and even tubing.”
Joe said it didn’t embarrass him at all.
“He did whatever he wanted,” he said. “Nothing held him back. He was vulnerable though … he was so nice and had such a soft heart, always willing to help people.”
Frank was involved with the Knights of Columbus and loved children.
“During Christmas, he worked at Shoe Carnival and he was always spending part of his paycheck helping kids have the shoes they wanted,” Sammy said. “Why hurt a person like that? Why? We’d like to know.”
Then, the Urrutia’s received unimaginable news. Their brother had been murdered.
“We have the report, it’s in the envelope and we’ve never opened it,” Paul said. “It’s remained sealed and I asked my sister to keep it that way. Just imagine if it were your sibling … it just wouldn’t sit right.”
What was strange to three brothers was that the group of people originally questioned all had the exact same story.
“Someone knows,” Paul said. “One story said he rented a hotel room for someone. Why would he do that when he had a home. He didn’t have a lot of money…the story just doesn’t make sense. To me. I think he took the rap for someone and he paid the ultimate price for it.”
An autopsy revealed that the cause of death was the result of a massive crushing injury of the head and chest. The body was in an advanced state of decomposition and was unclothed and appeared to have been dumped at that location. Frank’s vehicle was later located on Wednesday, Sept. 21 at an apartment complex at the 1800 block of Interstate 35 North. The vehicle was a 2001 White GMC single cab truck and was processed at the Department of Public Safety’s crime lab in Austin.
“No one deserves to die alone,” Paul said with tears in his eyes. “He suffered. I can imagine him crying out for help; just imagine what he went through.”
A reward is still being offered for the arrest and conviction of whoever killed Frank.
“If money is your motivation then so be it,” Paul said. “But please just give us closure.”
The case went cold in late 2012.
Periodically, in the past seven years numerous tips have been received and investigated but none have turned out to be credible. The case is currently assigned to a detective who has been reviewing all the interviews, tips and physical evidence.
“This is a solvable case,” Commander Kelly Bomersbach of the Criminal Investigation Division of the San Marcos Police Department said. “We have recovered a large amount of physical evidence from both his vehicle and the location where his body was found. We need anyone who has information about Frank to come forward now.”
Joe echoed those sentiments asking people who knew Frank to remember and recall their friendship.
“If you know something please help,” he said. “Do it for Frank.”
Have a tip or information? Contact detective Patrick Aubry at 512-753-2306.