By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
And like his father, Oscar knew how to have a good time. When he and Theresa got married, the family chartered a bus to take 100 of Oscar's closest friends down to the wedding in Mexico. The ceremony was held at an old Spanish church just off the town square in Villa de Garcia, where Oscar's father lived on the family ranch. "It was pouring down rain," remembers best man John Lendvay. "And after they were declared husband and wife, the doors of the church opened and it had stopped raining and it was the most beautiful crisp sky. The roads looked like they had been freshly washed and it left this magical mist over the city."
The wedding party traveled back to the ranch, which was surrounded by large fruit trees and bougainvillea, and there, near the swimming pool and the stately ranch house, they danced until daybreak. The open desert stretched around them for miles in every direction. The future seemed filled with limitless possibilities.
As time passed, Oscar's friends scattered—to Puerto Rico and Chile and Miami—chasing jobs and boyfriends and opportunities to study abroad. But eventually many of them would return to Oak Cliff. In the days before his death, Oscar would often say how happy he was that they had all wound up back in the old neighborhood. It was such a rare thing, to have a circle of friends that had been together since childhood. They went dancing together and barbecued at Oscar and Theresa's house, and now they were having children at the same time. They were young, financially comfortable and blissfully happy.
Now those friends could only wonder why someone would kidnap Oscar Sanchez Jr.
While members of the Sanchez family paced and stood nervously at the intersection of Winnetka and Canty, wondering where Oscar had been taken and if he was OK, the police officer told Laura and Theresa they would have to go down to DPD headquarters. In the meantime, Laura should keep her cell line open in case the kidnappers called again. The rest of the family went to La Calle Doce in Oak Cliff to wait.
Oscar's uncles Jesus and Juan, who managed two of the family restaurants, couldn't figure it out. Richie Acevedo? The young, effeminate Mexican immigrant who waited tables at El Ranchito? How could he be involved in something like this? And wasn't he in France? He had recently called a co-worker from there, saying he was looking at the Eiffel Tower.
But they had nothing else to go on. Richie's address on his employment records was on Forest Lane, but he no longer lived there, one of the mariachis at the restaurant told them. He'd been to a party at Richie's house, he said, and the former waiter now lived in Duncanville.
By that time, police had traced the ransom call to a prepaid cell phone bought with a credit card by a Jose Felix, whose listed address was 302 Royal Avenue in Duncanville. At around 3 p.m., Oscar's uncles sent someone over to the house. There was movement inside. Shouldn't they just bust the door down? But the police, who were still waiting for authorization to set up surveillance, told them to hold tight. Looking back, the family would consider it a crucial moment in time, a missed opportunity to intervene. Meanwhile, back at police headquarters, detectives were rushing to prepare a warrant to search the house.
Throughout the afternoon, there had been calls from the kidnappers. The voice on the other end was garbled and strange. At times, Laura had a hard time making it out. She didn't have $3 million, she said. The best she could do was $78,000. Without much argument, the voice on the other end agreed. She would put the money in a double plastic bag and drop it off in Arlington, off Abram Street.
By this time darkness was falling. A team of plainclothes policemen was watching the house on Royal Avenue. It was a little ranch house, brick with white shutters, in a nice, tree lined-neighborhood. The officers parked far enough away so as not to arouse suspicion and waited. But there was no movement inside. It appeared no one was home.
At the same time, a group of FBI agents and DPD officers were meeting in Arlington behind a large warehouse. Three officers would do the drop, one driving and two on the ground. The money, which was fake, and a tracking device would be placed in the plastic bags.
By 3 a.m., no one had shown up. What was worse, the kidnappers had stopped calling. The command post at Royal Avenue got word: It was time to enter the house. Detectives followed heavily armored SWAT agents as they busted down the door and swarmed into the sparsely furnished house. At the end of a hall, they reached the master bedroom. There, the furniture was in disarray and some of it was broken. The bed was rumpled and messy, with blood soaking the sheets and mattress. Blood seemed to be everywhere—smeared on the walls and windows and bedside table. Pieces of a broken black statuette lay on the bedside table and appeared to be covered in blood. The officers found a fired bullet on the bed, as well as two .25-caliber bullet casings and a black ski mask. Wherever Oscar Sanchez was, his chances of survival seemed slim.