A 29-year-old woman whose New Year’s Day murder shocked Austin’s music community will be laid to rest today following a funeral in El Paso. Esme Barrera’s body was found by police early January 1 inside her home on King Street near 31st Street. Two other women said they were assaulted nearby the same evening.
Austin police provided an update on the investigation last night at the Heritage Neighborhood Association's regularly scheduled meeting. Barrera’s friends, acquaintances, and others who were disturbed by the seemingly random nature of the crime packed into First English Lutheran Church at 3001 Whitis Blvd.
Many of them have been involved in a concerted effort online to collect information that could aid the investigation. One effort included compiling a series of composite sketches of suspects wanted in other sex-related crimes, with the idea they may be the same person.
Police last night said they were aware of the sketches but said some that are definitely not linked, the Austin American-Statesman reported. Police Commander Julie O'Brien told the meeting that four of the suspects had already been arrested, and one was Hispanic, not black, according to the Statesman. The suspect wanted in the assault that occurred the same night and neighborhood that Barrera was killed was described as a black man.
Investigators said they have 250 tips and have conducted DNA testing. At this point, police said they have no indication Barrera's murder is related to other sexual assaults in the area or a case of indecent exposure that happened on Christmas Day.
"Hopefully we'll dispel some of the rumors,” APD Assistant Chief Raul Munguia told KVUE.
But people had tough questions for police last night, including why tracking dogs and a search helicopter were not used to hunt for the attacker, KXAN reports. Here’s KXAN's video report from last night's newscast.
Barrera’s funeral is scheduled for noon Austin time at Our Lady of Assumption Catholic Church in El Paso. She will be buried after the service at Restlawn Memorial Park Cemetery. Donations to the family can still be made here.