The body was found about 4:30 a.m. in a burning truck left in a remote section of woods in Sibley County. While authorities eventually identified the victim as Daniel Juarez, that is about the only thing investigators have been able to determine conclusively about the Dec. 6 killing of the 42-year-old Chaska businessman. "It is a big case for us," said Sibley County Sheriff Bruce Ponath, whose office last handled a murder more than 20 years ago. "Very unusual."
Ponath said he has several investigators on the case, as well as agents from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Carver County and, for a while, the Chaska police. Almost two months later, key questions remain unanswered -- most notably, what exactly was the cause of death?
The Sibley Sheriff's Office has refused to say how Juarez died or provide even a generic cause of death after an autopsy.
"We are doing what we think is best for the investigation," Ponath said.
Last week, the Sibley Sheriff's Office did go public with one announcement: It offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case. "Obviously, we're looking for more leads," Ponath said.
Juarez, who owned a satellite dish company and recently had started a Spanish language newspaper in Chaska, was found inside a burning DJ Satellite Service company truck in a wooded area about a mile northeast of Green Isle.
What the father of four children was doing in such a remote spot and whom he might have been with that night remains a mystery. Also unanswered is how someone could have killed him in such an isolated place and made a getaway without leaving a trail.
Although there is speculation that Juarez was shot and the truck burned to destroy evidence, Ponath won't talk about motive, possible suspects, or even if authorities are able to say how Juarez spent the last few hours of his life.
Juarez's relatives and acquaintances can only speculate about what happened.
"You know as much as I do," said Rosalba Juarez, his widow and business partner in the satellite dish company and newspaper.
Daniel Juarez had started El Heraldo, a biweekly bilingual publication, in September. His name remains on the masthead as publisher.
His widow said she does not know what her husband was doing in Green Isle. She does not believe his death is a result of anything printed in the newspaper, which relies primarily on wire services for its content, or anything to do with their satellite TV business.
One of the last people to see Daniel Juarez alive, apart from his wife, was his former attorney, who met with the couple on Dec. 5 to talk about advertising in El Heraldo.
"He seemed nervous," said attorney Douglas Nepp, who represented Daniel Juarez on domestic abuse charges last spring in Chaska. "But Daniel always seemed like the nervous type."
Nepp, who saw Juarez in the late afternoon, said he did not mention any particular trouble or problem he might be facing.
Carver County District Court records show that Daniel Juarez was arrested and charged with domestic assault in April and pleaded guilty to several misdemeanor counts for those offenses. A restraining order was obtained against him by his wife after the April assault, but was lifted months later.
Despite that acrimony, the couple continued to work together, as evidenced by the fact that Rosalba accompanied Daniel to meet with Nepp the day before Daniel died.
Early in the investigation, search warrants were served by police at the couple's home looking for clues to his death. "We found nothing," said Chaska Police Chief Scott Knight.
In fact, Knight said his department was in the process of looking into a missing-person report on Daniel Juarez when the notice about his death came in to his department a few hours after the body was found. Knight said Rosalba Juarez had filed the missing-person report that morning.
Rosalba Juarez said the couple was married for 16 years and had moved to Minnesota from Chicago in the early '90s because they thought it would be safer and more peaceful.
"I don't know why he was killed," she said. "There's no reason for it."
Heron Marquez Estrada • 612-673-4280
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