Neighbors recall murder victim's desire to help others
PORT LAVACA - A year after the murder, the house at 514 S. Trinity St. stands empty and dilapidated with a "For Sale" sign poking from the weeds growing in the front yard.
Most of the neighbors don't want to talk about the murder, but they all have kind things to say about Carrol F. Fondren, the victim.
Ylrika Aguirre has lived on South Trinity Street for more than 30 years. Fondren was known as a nice person throughout the neighborhood, she said.
"He was a very sweet man," Aguirre said.
Neighbor Ted Flores agreed.
"I used to see him around the neighborhood. My brother knew him. He seemed like a nice guy," Flores said. "It's sad, what happened."
Early on the morning of Nov. 5, 2009, Fondren's body was discovered in his home, 514 S. Trinity St. He had been beaten with a board and stabbed to death.
The Port Lavaca Police Department began interviewing residents and compiling a list of suspects after the murder was discovered.
They soon focused on David Arredondo Jr. and his wife, Laura Lee Arredondo.
The couple rented space for a small trailer in the lot adjacent to Fondren's and paid Fondren rent.
Calhoun County District Attorney Dan Heard said Fondren was known as the kind of person who tried to reach out to the less fortunate.
"He was well-known for helping people and some of those people were folks other people would not want to help," Heard said.
Fondren helped the Arredondos, giving them rides and taking them to church.
Last week, the couple pleaded guilty to charges related to Fondren's murder.
They were both addicted to crack cocaine, Heard said, and the two were seen panhandling around the neighborhood for money in the days before the killing.
Fondren was killed when Arredondo tried to take back the rent money to buy drugs, Heard said.
Port Lavaca police broke the case when they discovered bloody clothes, a knife with Fondren's DNA on it and Arredondo's wallet in a nearby storm sewer, Heard said.
David Arredondo Jr. pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of first-degree murder and a dropped robbery charge. District Judge Joseph P. Kelly sentenced him to life in prison.
His wife, Laura Lee Arredondo, pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence. She received 10 years in prison, the maximum sentence.
Extensive lab tests didn't link her to the murder, but the investigation showed she hid the evidence.
Initially charged with capital murder, Arredondo was offered the opportunity to plead guilty to the lesser charge in exchange for his cooperation in the investigation, Heard said.
The plea bargain for first-degree murder was offered to gain Arredondo's cooperation in the investigation, Heard said.
"We wanted to make sure he was really the only one involved in the murder," Heard said.
Fondren had no relatives in the area. He is survived by his brother, Reese Fondren, a resident of Maryville, Tenn., Heard said.
The people in the neighborhood will miss him, though, Aguirre said.
Aguirre was satisfied with the sentence, though it won't bring Fondren back, she said.
"I think they got what they deserved," she said.