Daniel Perez, the man who led a commune at Valley Center compound in Texas, has been accused of foul play in dealing with his members’ life insurance policies. Perez, who is facing trial for the death of fellow member Patricia Hughes, is being tried for murder and other charges.
The prosecution has brought forward evidence that shows Perez instructed a witness to fake their testimony regarding Ms Hughes’ death. Ms Hughes was initially believed to have died trying to save her two-year-old daughter from a residential pool and accidently drowned. New evidence from the witness has revealed how she was coerced to lie about the incident and tell “a false story to the police”.
52-year-old Perez, formerly known under the fake name Lou Castro, is accused of living a lavish life off life insurance policies of his dead commune members.
Retired life insurance representative Bill Hatton has told the court of policies taken out on members and how Perez directed the amounts and beneficiaries, although he was not listed on them. These include dead members of the commune. Mr Hatton testified that Perez wrote five policies for group members, including a $1 million policy taken out on Ms Hughes. When Mr Hatton questioned Perez’s close involvement in these policies, he was told that the members had formed a close family bond.
Other suspicious deaths that might involve Perez include the death of a member, her boyfriend, and her 12-year-old daughter in a plane crash in 2001; the death of Ms Hughes’ husband, Brian Hughes, in 2006 in a suspicious road accident; and the death of another group member in 2008 who had been given legal custody of Ms Hughes’ orphan daughter. Ms Hughes’ husband had a life insurance policy of $250,000. Both Mr and Ms Hughes had their life insurance payments double upon their death, owing to accidental death benefit.
Perez faces several charges alongside murder including multiple counts of lying on life insurance applications, rape, sodomy, criminal threat, making false statements on auto credit applications and sexual exploitation of a child.