By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
On the morning of September 3 in Mexico City, a maid was cleaning rooms at the hotel Maria Cristina. After knocking repeatedly on the door of a room occupied by a retired American judge named Christopher Kepler, she called security. When they opened the door, they found Kepler, 57, dead in the room. He had been beaten, strangled, bound and gagged.
Last week, Mexico City officials made an arrest in the case. But to Kepler's friends back in Dallas, many questions about the murder remain unanswered.
Kepler was in Mexico City for eye surgery, friends say. He suffered from diabetes, and in recent months his condition had deteriorated quickly. He was rapidly losing his vision. It had gotten so bad, friends say, he could barely get around.
Why Kepler would go to Mexico City alone when he couldn't see well enough to drive baffles his friend Lloyd Bockstruck, who heads the genealogy section at the Dallas Public Library. But what is more puzzling to Bockstruck is why Kepler drafted a will in July and then redrafted it in August shortly before his trip to Mexico City. Bockstruck said the will was found in Kepler's hotel room.
Kepler, who was an only child, was born in a small town in Iowa and spent some time in Mexico City as a teacher after graduating from law school. He worked as a municipal judge in Muenster, Texas, before coming to Dallas, where he worked as a county tax judge. He later went into private law practice.
Bockstruck describes Kepler as a man of fine taste who had little tolerance for people with poor manners or inferior intellect. He was known to host lavish dinner parties at local restaurants or at his Turtle Creek condominium, which Bockstruck said was full of "all kinds of little jewels."
"He liked his fine foods and fine wines, and he liked fine paintings and art," Bockstruck says. "He was the kind of person who couldn't buy just one of something, that would be the only negative thing I could say about him. He just wasn't satisfied with one."
Alexander Troup, another of Kepler's friends, told The Dallas Morning Newsthat Kepler often hosted Mexican officials in Dallas and took them on shopping trips and to exclusive parties. He said that these relationships may have had something to do with Kepler's death, but Bockstruck dismisses this theory as unlikely.
Instead, it seems Kepler's murder was either a crime of opportunity or one of passion, according to police theories published in the Mexico City press. The suspect in the case, Eduard Giovanni Hernandez, a 26-year-old from Honduras, told police that he met Kepler in the Pink Zone--an area popular among tourists for its restaurants, bars and nightlife--and that they had spent time together over a two-week period. Police say that Hernandez has confessed to killing Kepler.
Bockstruck said robbery makes sense as a motive. Still, there are questions. In April, Kepler's mother died, leaving him a large inheritance from her real estate fortune. Bockstruck can't help but wonder why his friend would draft one will and then another so shortly before his death.
"Whether it was premeditated, or someone just saw an opportunity and took advantage of him, I don't know," Bockstruck says. "It is very strange."