Victoria native found dead in Kingsville

May 15, 2012 at 12:15 a.m.
Updated July 3, 2012 at 2:03 a.m.

Family and friends are mourning the death of Victoria native Frank W. Wearden Jr., 34, who was beaten and stabbed to death near Kingsville on Monday.

The Kleberg County Sheriff's Office thinks robbery was the motive, according to KRIS television in Corpus Christi.

Michael Lerma, 20, of Riviera, was arrested and charged with capital murder, according to the report.

"He was a wonderful person, a wonderful son, family member, brother and uncle," said his mother, Gloria Wearden, 62, of Victoria. "No one who knew him would have anything bad to say about him. He had no enemies, and he was always helping people."

Wearden, who was a military veteran, lived in Riviera, near Kingsville.

Investigators said Wearden was last seen leaving a Kingsville nightclub in his Toyota pickup just after closing time, according to the television report. Wearden's body was found in a nearby ditch about 2:30 p.m.

Lerma was later seen on surveillance video driving the victim's pickup at a convenience store where Lerma once worked. He attempted to use Wearden's credit cards, according to the report.

Police found Lerma at his home on Louisiana Street. Wearden's truck was parked outside.

Kleburg County Sheriff's Office officials did not return phone calls Tuesday afternoon.

Victoria County Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor said his family is close to the Wearden family. He considered Wearden to be like a son.

A graduate of St. Joseph High School in Victoria, Wearden was attending Texas A&M University-Kingsville, O'Connor said.

"He is an outstanding individual who has overcome a lot of issues, including coming back from serving in the war overseas," O'Connor said.

Lerma was convicted in February on a charge of sexual assault of a child. He was serving probation. Roommates said he had acted depressed recently, according to the television report.

Lerma remained in the Kleberg County jail on a $1 million bond.



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