Heartfelt donation to family

Courtesy photo

Members of Stephanie Paniagua’s family are with those she graduated with from Wharton High School’s Class of 2019, which created a GoFundMe account to help with funeral expenses.

The Wharton Police Department announced this week the arrest of a sibling who was allegedly involved in the death of Stephanie Paniagua earlier this month.

In a news release on Thursday, June 25, Wharton PD formally charged (and served) Julio Sesar Paniagua with the alleged murder of his sister, Stephanie, which occurred on June 7, on Davis Street, in Wharton.

Stephanie, 19, died that day from a gunshot wound.

“In addition, Julio Sesar Paniagua was charged and arrested for allegedly tampering with physical evidence related to this case on June 11, and as such, has been jailed at the Wharton County Jail since that date,” the news release read.

The Texas Rangers assisted in the case from the beginning, according to Wharton PD.

Stephanie’s death was the first homicide in Wharton since 2009, WPD said.

Det. Ariel Soltura is the investigator in this case. WPD continues to investigate this case and encourages those with useful information to contact the department at 979 532-3131 or anonymously via the P3 app (www.p3tips.com/community/mobile/index.htm).

Donation given to family

It was around this time last year that Stephanie graduated from Wharton High School as part of the Class of 2019. Many of her classmates and those in the community donated money to a GoFundMe account that was set up by one her classmates the day she passed away.

The account was set up to pay for funeral expenses.

On June 17, members of the Class of 2019 met with the Paniagua family to present them with a $4,000 cashier’s check from the GoFundMe fundraiser.

Madison Mendiola was joined by fellow Class of 2019 alumni C.J. Phynon and Class President Michael Hernandez.

In an email to the Journal-Spectator, Mendiola said there were many generous classmates who gave, but with a heavy heart and deep sympathies. 

“As soon as I was aware of Stephanie’s passing, I knew the Class of 2019 needed to get together and do something for her. We started a group chat with more than 50 of us wanting to do anything we could for her and her family at the time. We discussed and decided on a GoFundMe Fundraiser and a flower arrangement for the funeral home with our class flower,” Mendiola said. “A lot of us weren’t close with Stephanie, but 2019 was a big family and once a Wharton Tiger, always a Wharton Tiger. She had a bright future ahead of her, and it’s disappointing knowing she never got the future she deserved. My deepest condolences are with the family at this time.”

Phyon said he is happy that classmates were there for Stephanie’s family.

“I hope the money they received will help make things easier for her family,” he said.


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