HILL CITY, KS— At approximately 5:30PM Thursday evening, January 4th, the first of many public notifications were released by regional law enforcement agencies advising the public of an unresponsive male north and west of Penokee, KS on what is known as the “Old Goddard Ranch Road” or the 2700 block of 170th Avenue. A manhunt subsequently ensued and encompassed the northeast corner of Graham County, northwest corner of Rooks County and the southwest portion of Phillips Counties. Residents within Norton, Phillips, Rooks and Graham Counties were placed on high alert. The Phillips County KS Sheriff's Office shared information on their Facebook Page stating, “January 4 at 6:16pm · We are monitoring the situation in Graham County and have increased patrols in the Logan area, however we do not have any information that the suspect(s) are in the area.” The Phillips County Sheriff’s Department subsequently contributed assistance with the search efforts.
The initial 911 call was made to the Graham County Sheriff’s Department at approximately 3:30 pm. Graham County EMS and deputies from the Graham County Sheriff’s Department responded to the rural Penokee residence and discovered two deceased individuals who were later identified by family members as Efren Lloyd Mascarenas Sr., 52, and, step-daughter, Christin Cantrell, 29. The causes of the deaths are not being released at this time and are pending the findings of a medical examiner. It has been reported to My Phillips County Online by a source that wishes to remain unidentified that Cantrell was in her third trimester of pregnancy at the time of her murder.
Immediately launching an investigation, evidence led deputies to begin their search for Efren Lloyd Mascarenas Jr., the son and reported step-brother of the victims. Mascarenas Jr. had resided at the residence with Mascarenas Sr., the wife of Mascarenas Sr. who is reported as the suspect’s step-mother and the mother of Cantrell, and Cantrell along with two minor children. One of those children was confirmed to be the daughter of Christin Cantrell.
It is believed that Mascarenas Jr. had lived with the family since his release in February of last year from the custody of the Kansas Department of Corrections while his post release supervision expired in August. Mascarenas Jr. had served time for Aggravated Battery out of Ellis County from charges filed in April of 2012; Aggravated Battery with the Intent of Causing Reckless Bodily Harm which occurred in 2010, Trego County; Aggravated Battery with the Intention of Inflicting Great Bodily Harm filed from an incident which occurred in Ellis County during the late summer of 2009; and, Interference with a Law Enforcement Officer in Resistance of Warrant Service, again, out of Ellis County, 2013.
A description of the Person of Interest in the case was released identifying Efren Lloyd Mascarenas Jr., as the target of the search. He was described as a white male, 5’2” tall, 130 pounds, with brown eyes and black hair, possibly driving a 2007 Blue Dodge Charger with a broken passenger side mirror. He was believed to be armed and extremely dangerous. Alerts were issued warning the public to remain inside, secure their residences and businesses, remove keys from vehicles and farm equipment and refrain from approaching or interfering in the apprehension of the subject.
Social Media, according to reports obtained, was credited for aiding in the location of the suspect vehicle approximately 11 miles north of Bogue, KS, just north of the intersection of county roads AA and 360 at approximately 6:30 that evening. Several hours into the search, media crews consisting of KWCH and My Phillips County Online were requested to disengage and stage at the Graham County Courthouse pending the release of additional information. Canine, aircraft assistance, the Kansas Highway Patrol and several additional county law enforcement agencies assisted with the search.
Graham County Sheriff, Cole Presley, granted a brief interview at that time in which he stated that the vehicle in question had been located approximately three quarters of a mile north of AA and 360 Roads. Investigators were searching the area and it was believed that the individual they were attempting to locate continued to present a clear and present danger to local residents. Citizens were asked to immediately report any suspicious activity by dialing 911. No other information was released, including the location of the initial crime scene. However, it was learned that a foot search for Mascarenas Jr. had begun. Information released was kept to a minimum to preserve the integrity of the developing case.
Soon after the briefing with Presley, scanner traffic indicated the drawdown of resources participating in the search. My Phillips County was advised that the vehicle in question belonged to one of the murder victims.
At approximately 3:30AM, Sheriff Presley granted an additional interview to both KWCH and My Phillips County Online updating the information he believed could be prudently released at that time. He did acknowledge the earlier drawdown of resources stating that it would serve to aid in the handling of other law enforcement needs within the counties affected. Presley stated that a vehicle which matched the description released earlier in the evening had been located and that the area near AA and 360 Roads was an active crime scene. Presley stated that other resources were still searching for Mascarenas Jr. and he had not yet been located.
Presley acknowledged the participation and appreciation of assisting agencies including the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, Kansas Highway Patrol, Hays, Stockton, and Hill City’s Police Departments, Ellis, Rooks, Phillips and Norton Counties’ Sheriff’s Departments. These agencies were either assisting with or had assisted with both the search and processing aspects of the two known crime scenes, the initial murder scene and the secondary vehicle recovery site which were located approximately 22 miles apart. Again, Presley was hesitant to verify or specify the initial crime scene location. The names of the victims were not being released pending completion of notification to the murder victims’ families. Identification of the owner of the recovered Dodge Charger was also not being released. The initial perimeter had been withdrawn, but the area was still considered secured by law enforcement personnel. Additionally, no information was being released related to how the bodies had been discovered. A lapse of approximately three hours occurred between discovery of the bodies at 3:30PM and locating the vehicle of interest north of Bogue. Sheriff Presley stated he did not believe the car had been at the recovery location for long prior to being found. Presley further advised the public to notify the authorities of any suspicious activities. The briefing was cut short due to a call received reporting possible suspicious activity near the area of concern.
At approximately 9:15AM on Friday, January 5th, the body of Mascarenas was located in an area near the intersection of AA and 360 Roads in northeast Graham County. It was later determined that the cause of death was most probably caused by a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation assumed the lead in the investigation and no other additional information would be made available except through their public service office.
Additional information will be reported as it is released through appropriate channels. My Phillips County Online will continue to follow the investigation to its conclusion.
The citizens of Graham County, friends of the victims and family have expressed support for the victim’s family and have initiated fundraising efforts to pay for funeral expenses. Although the citizens of Graham County are in shock and left wondering why such a horrific series of events unfolded in their generally quiet county, they are coming together in support and unity, working together to recover, heal and move forward. The why of the tragedies may never be known, but the spirit of the residents of Graham County will not be broken.
Community efforts to support the family of the victims will be updated on My Phillips County Online as well.
My Phillips County Online extends sincere and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Mascarenas Sr., and Ms. Cantrell.