Missing Texas woman found dead 10 days after vanishing on night out

Madeline Pantoja, aged 20, was reported missing on 11 May

Graig Graziosi
Monday 22 May 2023 18:19 BST
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A woman who was reported missing from her home in west Texas was found dead on Saturday, and a man has been arrested in connection to her death, police said.

Madeline Pantoja, 20, was reported missing on 11 May. Her keys, phone and car were still at her home in Midland when police arrived to follow up on her disappearance.

After an investigation by Midland Police Department and other law enforcement agencies, Ms Pantoja’s body was found on Saturday in a rural area outside the city limits.

Hours after her remains were discovered, police arrested Mario Juan Chacon Jr, 24, on suspicion of killing Ms Pantoja. He has been charged with first-degree murder and is being held without bond at the Midland County Jail.

Police did not provide further details on Ms Pantoja's death however it is believed to be a homicide, pending autopsy results.

Ms Pantoja was last seen around 11pm on 10 May after she spent the evening out with her friends in Midland.

After family and friends were unable to reach her the following day, she was reported missing, prompting police to visit her home.

Her friends told police that they believed a recent ex-boyfriend could be behind her disappearance. Ms Pantoja’s neighbors also told police that they heard a man and a woman arguing inside her residence on the night of her disappearance.

Police have not said whether or not Mr Chacon Jr was Ms Pantoja’s ex-boyfriend.

The young woman’s disappearance sparked a search using drones and multiple law enforcement agencies.

Mario Juan Chacon, Jr in a booking photo. He has been charged with first-degree murder connected to the death of Madeline Pantoja (Midland County Sheriff’s Office)

Ms Pantoja's loved ones were reportedly frustrated by the pace of the search, which led to approximately 100 people protesting outside Midland Police headquarters on Thursday. They called for "justice" over the "lack of investigation," according to local outlet KTSM.

Midland Mayor Lori Blong said on Friday that law enforcement agencies searching for Ms Pantoja were working “tirelessly in searching and in gathering information and evidence” on her whereabouts.

A man claiming to be Ms Pantoja’s older brother, Christian, established a GoFundMe page to generate reward money for information in his sister’s disappearance. On Sunday, the page had raised approximately $27,000.

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