Detective Lt. Eddie Garcia said Mark Pillow became a suspect after Beeville Police Department investigators learned that he had been the last person seen at Dorothy Pillow’s home that Saturday afternoon.
News of the charges came as a shock to family members.
“I know my sister is up there saying don’t be so hard on him,” said James Wood, her brother. “We just need to see justice done.”
The Beeville Volunteer Fire Department was called to the scene at 4:16 p.m. Saturday after neighbors saw that Pillow’s home at 708 N. Jefferson St. was burning.
Once inside, firefighters discovered the victim. When the woman was removed from the home, emergency responders saw definite trauma wounds to her body.
Speculation on the part of investigators is that the suspect started the fire to cover up the crime.
The detective said the fire started in the same location at the back of the house where the victim’s body was found.
Garcia would not comment on a possible confession but the detective said the suspect was cooperative when questioned.
Investigators went to Corpus Christi Monday to attend an autopsy of the body at the Nueces County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Garcia said the medical examiner did not officially call the death a homicide at the time of the autopsy, but finding the wounds to the body was enough for evidence for police “to run with it,” Garcia said.
Pillow was charged with the two felony crimes as soon as detectives had the evidence they needed.
He was charged with murder, a first degree felony that could land him in a Texas prison for the rest of his life.
He also was charged with arson, a second degree felony that could result in a 20-year prison sentence.
Each of those felony charges also carry a potential $10,000 fine.
Garcia said Pillow was known to work odd jobs around the community.
The motive for the crime has not yet been determined, the detective said.
Those who knew the grandmother described her as a kindhearted person.
Wood described her as the type of person always willing to help — especially when it came to family.
“She would help anybody,” he said. “She was a family person. She had a lot of friends everywhere.”
Wood recalls his younger days when he and Dorothy were growing up in Karnes City.
“I remember when I was maybe 10 years old, when she drove off — she had gotten married and was driving off to Pennsylvania — I ran out in our pasture and cried for several hours.”
Pillow has lived in Beeville for the past years — a central location that allowed her to be close to her children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
A makeshift shrine sits on the front lawn at 708 N. Jefferson St. topped with flowers.
Surrounding the house is yellow police tape.
In one windowsill sits a pig figurine.
This, her brother said, was only one of many inside the home. “There are probably several hundred pigs inside. She loved little pigs. I don’t know why.”
BPD investigators called in arson specialists from the Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office over the weekend.
Garcia said the fire marshal’s team was led by Ramon Garcia and he was accompanied by fire/arson investigator David Rives and his canine, Saxon.
Others at the scene over the weekend included Sgt. Chris Bernal, Detective Matthew Miller and BPD evidence technician Laura Martinez.
Garcia said the only trouble he can recall the suspect getting into was on Sunday, after the fire, when Pillow was arrested for possession of marijuana in a drug-free zone.
Pillow was still in custody on that charge when the autopsy on his grandmother’s body was performed.
“He couldn’t make bail,” Garcia said.
The bail on that charge had been set at $2,000 by Justice of the Peace Abel Suniga.
Suniga also set bonds on the suspect at $1.5 million on the murder change and another $1.5 million on the arson charge.
Pillow remains in custody at the Bee County Jail.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.