Judge in Chayse Olivarez murder case recuses himself

RIO GRANDE CITY — A judge who found himself the target of a bribery attempt has recused himself from a murder case that has garnered much attention in Starr County.

State District Judge Jose Luis Garza filed a voluntary order of recusal Dec. 6 asking that the Jose Luis Garcia Jr. murder case be reassigned to Judge Missy Medary.

Medary, who serves as a Nueces County district court judge, is the presiding judge of the Fifth Administrative Judicial Region, which covers the Rio Grande Valley.

“I believe Judge Garza recused himself after consulting with the regional administrative judge’s office,” Starr County District Attorney Omar Escobar said in a text message.

Garza could not be reached for comment.

The defendant is accused of killing Chayse Olivarez, 17, over the summer. Olivarez was reported missing in July, and his remains were discovered on a Roma ranch in August.

In addition to a murder charge, Garcia, also 17, has been charged with tampering with physical evidence and tampering with a corpse.

Garza’s decision to recuse himself comes after Ricardo Lopez, a Rio Grande City school district truancy officer, approached Hernan Garza III — the judge’s brother and Rio Grande City mayor pro-tem.

Lopez is accused of attempting to bribe the judge to lower Garcia’s $2 million bond, after the judge previously denied Garcia’s attorneys’ bond reduction request at a November hearing. Garcia’s next bond reduction hearing won’t be until the new year.

Lopez was released on a $35,000 bond following his Nov. 29 arrest, after Hernan Garza III reported the bribery attempt to authorities.