A Texas grand jury indicted Jose Flores III this week in the murders of two women in San Antonio
A Texas man accused of murdering and sexually assaulting two San Antonio women, in 2005 and 2011, was indicted by a grand jury on Tuesday.
Jose Flores III, 36, is charged with two counts of capital murder in the deaths of Esmeralda Herrera and Heather Willms. He is also charged with one count of arson of a habitation.
He was first arrested in November as part of a joint investigation by county and state authorities, reportedly after new DNA testing. His attorney could not immediately be reached and he has not entered a plea to his charges, according to court officials.
Investigators allege that he killed both Herrera and Willms “in the course of sexually assaulting them,” according to the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office. Capital murder is a felony punishable by death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Willms was found stabbed to death in February 2005, authorities say: At about 5 a.m. on Feb. 21, 2005, neighbors told police they heard a woman arguing with a male. Later that day, friends discovered Willms’ body inside her bedroom.
“Mr. Flores was a purported friend of Heather’s, having gone to high school with her and staying in touch afterward,” Leon Valley Police Chief Joseph Salvaggio told the San Antonio Express-News. He was allegedly “one of the last to see her alive.”
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Six years later, in 2011, Herrera was also found dead inside her burning apartment, where she had been strangled. Arson investigators told the Express-News that the blaze was intentionally set.
Flores was arrested at the time but the case was rejected for further investigation, according to the DA’s office. The case was reportedly reopened in 2015.
Herrera’s family said in 2011 that she did not have any jealous rivals or ex-boyfriends. “I just can’t imagine not growing old with Emmy,” her sister told the Express-News.
Herrera’s family declined to comment to PEOPLE on Flores’ indictment out of deference to the ongoing prosecution; Willms’ family was not immediately available, but they have described her as “a loving and gentle soul that touched everyone she met.”
“She never met a stranger and therefore had an enormous circle of friends whom she cared for very much,” her obituary reads. “She had a love for pets and was lovingly known as ‘Kitten’ by her family. She leaves many memories and will be dearly missed by all who knew and loved her.”
Following news of Flores’ arrest in November, Willms’ family released a statement thanking law enforcement for their efforts “so no other family has to suffer through their child’s death as we have,” according to KSAT.
• With ADAM CARLSON and CHRIS HARRIS