The stabbing deaths of a couple and their toddler son inside their El Paso home nearly 30 years ago was one of the city's most shocking unsolved murders.
El Paso police over the weekend arrested Arturo Ortega Garcia, now 69, on a charge of capital murder of multiple persons in the brutal Santoni family slaying of 1994, officials said.
Concepcion "Connie" Villa, 28, her boyfriend, Francisco Santoni, 59, and their 3-year-old son, Dante Santoni, were found stabbed to death on Aug. 11, 1994, inside their home in the 1800 block of Garden Gate Way behind Montwood High School.
The arrest comes 28 years after a lengthy, and at times frustrating, cold-case investigation into the deaths of a family that was stabbed over 10 times, according to El Paso Times archives.
The U.S. Marshal's Lone Star Fugitive Task force arrested Ortega Garcia on Friday after he was extradited from Mexico City, where he had been jailed since 2020, El Paso police said in a news statement.
During the initial investigation, investigators recovered evidence that did not develop workable leads until 2015 when "technological advancements" resulted in the identification of Ortega Garcia as a suspect in the killings, police stated. A warrant for Ortega Garcia's arrest was issued in 2015 but his whereabouts were unknown until detectives learned of his arrest in Mexico City in 2020.
Ortega Garcia is currently being held under a $5 million bond at the El Paso County Jail in Downtown.
Police officials have not disclosed what the advancements lead to the suspect's identification nor have they given a possible motive for the killings and what ties, if any, Ortega Garcia had to the Santoni family.
In Texas, capital murder is punishable by the death penalty or life in prison without parole.
El Paso family slain at home
The killings of the Santoni family were shockingly brutal, according to newspaper archives.
"There was an intensive, full-blown task force on this case for a few weeks, then all leads were exhausted," Detective Jim Holland told the El Paso Times in 1997.
El Paso Times articles show that investigators believe that Connie Villa – a travel agent – was killed first in the bedroom of the family home after midnight. The killer then walked into the toddler’s room and stabbed him repeatedly as he lay in his bed.
The killer then removed some clothing and other items from the master closet and took them to the family’s 1994 Dodge Colt in the garage. Clothing and jewelry were stolen from the house, police said.
Francisco Santoni, owner of an international auto parts business, then came home and was surprised in the hallway by the intruder, who stabbed him repeatedly. His body was found in the same bedroom as Villa.
The family car was found shortly after the killings in the Union Plaza area of Downtown at the intersection of Durango Street and Paisano Drive, according to newspaper archives.
The trail would grow cold even as the investigation remained open for nearly three decades.
This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: El Paso police arrest suspect in 1994 Santoni family murder case