Daniel Perez abused and murdered his ‘followers’. But why..?
He’d had a chequered past, but, for over 20 years, Daniel Perez had evaded capture.
Moving across America, he left a trail of manipulation, abuse and death behind him. Eventually, though, the law would catch up with him. But who was this evil man..?
Daniel Perez was born in Aransas Pass, Texas, in 1959. Nothing is known about his childhood, education, upbringing or early family life. He went on to have a daughter, but he was often on the wrong side of the law.
In 1997, Perez was wanted for child-sex crimes, and was due to be sentenced in Texas.Only he disappeared. Some even thought he was dead.
In fact, although police didn’t know it at the time, Perez was living under the pseudonym of Lou Castro.
Over the next years, Perez used a web of other false identities that stretched across the states of Texas, South Dakota, Missouri, Kansas and Tennessee.
Along the way, he managed to collect ‘followers’, and they all lived together communally. Perez was thought of as a domineering leader, who kept a close eye on his young, mostly female, devotees.
He claimed to be able to tell the future, and boasted that he possessed other mystical powers. His followers knew him as a ‘seer’ – a person with supernatural insight who sees visions of the future. Some even believed his body to be inhabited by angels, and that he needed to have sex with young girls in order to stay alive. Was that what he said so he could abuse them?
In 2001, one of the members of Perez’ commune died in a plane crash in South Dakota.
Then, two years later, a call was made to the emergency services from the group’s compound, then in Wichita. There’d been another tragic accident.
A young mother named Patricia Hughes, 26, had drowned in a swimming pool while trying to rescue her 2-year-old daughter.
The incident was ruled a terrible accident, and the commune later received over $1million (around £775,000) in a payout from Patricia’s life-insurance policy.
But these weren’t the only untimely deaths that occurred around Perez…
Three years later, in 2006, Patricia Hughes’ husband was also killed when
a car jack failed and he was crushed to death. A car crash later resulted in the death of yet another group member, who had legal custody of Patricia’s orphaned daughter.
And it seemed that, each time, Perez’ commune benefited financially from the deaths.
It’s thought the money helped fund Daniel Perez’s lavish lifestyle, which included the expensive sports cars and large, remote-controlled aeroplanes he was obsessed with.
While Perez was taking out fraudulent loans was he making members of the commune do the same? Some had co-signed numerous car loans for other group members.
In 2010, Perez was arrested on identity-theft charges and jailed for two years.
During that time, a woman who’d been 11 at the time of Patricia Hughes’ death came forward. She told investigators that the reported drowning had, in fact, been staged and Perez had murdered Patricia.
The witness also said she was the victim of sexual assault – at the hands of Perez.
In 2012, Perez was arrested on suspicion of murdering Patricia Hughes, among other offences.
The same woman testified at a pre-trial hearing that, the night before Patricia died, she’d kissed her daughter goodbye and reassured her she’d return from the dead.
The witness also said Patricia had helped unfurl the swimming-pool vacuum to make her death look accidental, and that Perez and Patricia then told her to wait in a nearby shop office with Patricia’s daughter.
She said she then heard a splash and a scream, and Perez returned to the office, out of breath and with wet forearms. She claimed he’d told her to wait 20 minutes before getting into the pool with the toddler.
The same witness said Perez had told her to call the police and tell them Patricia had fallen and hit her head while trying to rescue her daughter. In fact, it was later found that Patricia was held underwater until she died.
As his sadistic lies unravelled, several other women testified about sexual violence and their fear of Perez.Two revealed in court that Perez had abused them, with one saying he’d raped her hundreds of times. One of them explained how he ordered her to videotape an 8-year-old girl in the bathroom. Investigators had found the tapes in Perez’ home.
But when Perez took the stand, he said he’d suffered a genital injury that prevented him from having sex with uncooperative partners. And that all of his partners had been of legal age.
He claimed to have suffered amnesia after a beating, which he said was why he’d taken to using a different name.
But the jury saw through his lies… Daniel Perez, 55, was convicted of first-degree murder, eight counts of rape, seven of aggravated criminal sodomy, three of aggravated assault, one of sexual exploitation of a child and eight of ‘making a false information’.
He was handed two life sentences plus 406 months, with no possibility of parole for 80 years.