Barbara Villarreal: Gruesome cold case murder finally solved after 38 years of mystery

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Back in November 1986, a young woman was brutally stabbed to death with a kitchen knife inside the walls of her own home.

Barbara Villarreal was just 27 years old when she was savagely killed and her murderer was never found – until now.

On the night of her death, police in Garland, Texas, arrested her husband, Domingo Dias Villarreal, as he was known to authorities at the time.

The 32-year-old was later cleared of all charges in relation to the unthinkable crime.

He was reportedly the one who discovered his wife’s body and screamed for his neighbours to call 911.

Despite their best efforts, detectives exhausted all leads and the case tragically turned cold.

For the past 37 years, Barbara’s family have never given up and always continued to hold out hope that her killer would one day be bought to justice.

Now, that time has come.

An 86-year-old man was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the horror slaying last month.

Libroio Canales will likely spend his final days behind bars for murdering Barbara back in 1986.

So, who is he? And why did he do it?

Well, as it turns out, Canales was actually Barbara’s husband’s brother.

Thanks to investigative genetic genealogy, detectives were able to finally track down her brother-in-law and killer after all these years.

Genetic genealogy is an incredible technology that transforms DNA ancestry tests into crime-solving tools.

It is able to analyse millions of DNA markers and compares it against genetic genealogy databases for people who share matching or very similar DNA patterns to create a suspect’s family tree.

All those years ago, the unidentified perpetrator’s blood was found at the crime scene, but detectives could never do much with it at the time.

But now, thanks to modern advances, the sample was able to be retested with this new technology and was matched to Canales’ DNA.

“It’s justice delayed, but it’s absolutely justice,” Dallas County prosecutor, Leighton D’Antoni. told media outside the courtroom.

“They may have done some ungodly acts in their lives. They know they are meeting their maker sooner than later.

“I do think that helps people to accept responsibility and plead guilty.”

Garland Police Detective Lucas Shupe first reviewed the case in late 2019 or early 2020, he told The Dallas Morning News.

He said it was a “surreal feeling” to be able to make the arrest so many years after the murder.

“I would like to think that this case could show the public that police departments don’t forget and that they do continue to work and try and bring some sort of closure to the families,” he said.

“It was a pretty horrific crime scene. It was definitely a violent crime that had taken place.”

Barbara’s husband himself was killed in 1988 and detectives later discovered that his real name was actually Jesus Canales.

Investigators were able to link the blood found at the crime scene to a close relative of Barbara’s husband, and then matched it to the killer using traditional DNA testing.

Canales was arrested in Lovington, New Mexico back in July 2023 after he crossed the border to return to the U.S. to celebrate his birthday.

He moved to the small town in the years after the murder but had recently been living in Mexico.

Canales admitted to the murder after his arrest, police confirmed.

While the exact motive to why he killed his sister-in-law in such a barbaric way remains unclear, it is believed is may have stemmed from some kind of family dispute.

“You spent 37 years living your life as if nothing had happened,” Barbara’s sister-in-law, Jennifer Dunderman, told Canales inside the courtroom, according to The Dallas Morning News.

“The life you lived should be considered a gift. You didn’t just kill Barb, you killed a little piece of everyone she knew.”

Barbara’s mother is still alive and is now 93 years old. The family said they were relieved that she will get the closure and resolution she deserves before she passes away.

“She will never again have to worry about who killed her daughter,” Dunderman said.

“It doesn’t really change anything though,” Barbara’s brother, Mark Dunderman, told WFAA.

“We still don’t have our sister. But it is nice to have closure.”

Barbara was part of a big, but tight-knit family and grew up in the Indiana countryside.

She had a “simple and happy” childhood, riding bicycles to her grandparents’ corner shop for lollies and swimming in the nearby lake, her family said.

A close friend described her as a “faultless, smart, sweet and kind” person.

She was the youngest of four children from her mother’s marriage with her father, who died when she was just a few years old. Her mother remarried and had two more kids.

Barbara spent most Sundays and every holiday with her extended family that included loads of cousins.

To this day, her relatives continue to carry memories of her with them. They told local newspapers that they like to cook recipes she shared with them, and they reconnected with the family who adopted her Pomeranian, Cami, after her death.

One of her nieces even gave her daughter middle name that begins with a “B” in honour of her great-aunt.