San Marcos PD investigates homicide near Texas State University

“He brightened up the room every time you saw him,” head football coach James Keller said.

SAN MARCOS, Texas — Two people have been charged with murder in connection with the death of 19-year-old Lavonte Craig Benford, which occurred in San Marcos on Sunday, November 28.

On Wednesday, Dec. 8, the city of San Marcos said police arrested Lukas Javier Perez, 17, of San Antonio, and Michael Brandon Torres, 25, of Weslaco.

Perez was charged with murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and jailed in the Hays County Jail on Tuesday, December 7. Torres was charged with murder and jailed in Hays County Jail on Saturday, December 4. Perez and Torres remain in jail on bail of $550,000 and $500,000, respectively.

The city said the investigation suggests the homicide was drug-related.

According to an arrest affidavit, Benford’s roommate arranged a meeting with Perez and Torres via Snapchat to purchase marijuana. The affidavit said Benford and his roommate had four counterfeit $100 bills that they planned to use to buy 42 grams of marijuana.

Documents say that during the transaction, Torres and Perez discovered that Benford and his roommate had paid with counterfeit money and retaliated by shooting them, killing Benford.

ISD Mansion confirmed that Benford was a recent district graduate.

the San Marcos Police Department continues to investigate the homicide, which occurred Sunday, November 28 at approximately 2:20 p.m. at The Cottages apartment complex, located at 1415 Craddock Ave., just one mile from Texas State University.

Benford was pronounced dead at the scene. He was not a student at Texas State, the city said.

The shooting was an isolated incident and there is no continuing threat to the public.

Former Benford football manager James Keller said the teenager they affectionately called ‘Red’ because of his hair was an incredible athlete and even a better person.

“He raced on track,” Keller said. “He did powerlifting. He was an all-district football player, junior sophomore, senior, just a great boy.”

Benford is graduating from Manor Senior High in 2021. Head football coach Keller said Red played football as a Mustang for four years, three of which were in college.

“He brightened up the room every time you saw him — something about his smile, he always had a big smile on his face,” Keller said.

For Keller, Red was more than a student-athlete. They met while Benford was playing in the little league. He said they’ve been glued to the hip ever since.

“He’s almost like a second, third son to me, man,” Keller said. “I need someone to watch my house when we go out of town and Red watched my house for me. Great character, very trustworthy. Loved him to death.”

Keller said Benford went on vacation with him and his family and spent a lot of time at their home. Keller said his 9-year-old son looks up to Benford.

“Red was his favorite,” Keller said. “He had this big smile and wore a grill all the time. My son is 9 and he said, ‘I want a grill like Red, dad.’ My wife bought him a fake grill and made a collage of their grills and we sent it to Red.”

Keller tearfully said Benford wanted to be a welder but worked at Amazon while staying with his brother near Texas State University.

“We love you, man,” Keller said in tears. “Sorry, I wasn’t there for you when it happened.”

On Monday morning, MISD issued the following statement:

“Lavonte Benford, affectionately referred to as ‘Red’ by family and friends, was an alumnus of Manor ISD. He graduated from Manor Senior High School in the spring of 2021. Red was a student-athlete and well known for his skills and abilities in football and We extend our deepest condolences to his parents, siblings, family and all who loved him Manor ISD is working closely with Travis County and the City of Manor to provide support to our community during this time of grief and healing. A crisis team is available this week at Manor High School and Manor Senior High. We will forever cherish Red’s memory at Manor ISD and will never forget his perfect smile.”

This is the fourth homicide this year in San Marcos.


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