By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Laura kept thinking about Richie Acevedo. She barely knew the young waiter, had maybe spoken to him three times during his years at El Ranchito. They always spoke in Spanish. Did he even speak English? The garbled and distorted kidnapper's voice spoke fluent English.
There was a point during the failed ransom negotiations when the kidnappers hung up on her, and she thought, "They've killed my son." But she pushed the thought away, forced herself not to listen. The thought grew stronger when the police described what they had found at the house on Royal Avenue. But still, she held out hope. Maybe they were keeping him somewhere; maybe he'd survived.
The kidnappers ceased to call after that first day, but the police continued to monitor the men's phone and traced calls placed throughout the Midwest. As they searched for the kidnappers and for any sign of Oscar, sketchy outlines of the suspects began to emerge. Jose Alberto Felix, 28, owned the Duncanville house, the ransom phone and the white Chevy Cavalier that was used in the kidnapping. He held a law degree from Mexico and worked as a bilingual teacher at Fannin Elementary. Strangely, he had stopped showing up for work two months earlier. His roommate, Edgar "Richie" Acevedo, was described as a "flamboyant" 24-year-old from Mexico who liked to dress in drag. He had left his job at El Ranchito around the same time Felix vanished from Fannin Elementary.
The two had been friends and roommates for several years. They'd shared a Forest Lane apartment, and later, when Felix bought the house in Duncanville and he and his boyfriend, Michael Mitchell, moved into it, Acevedo began renting the master bedroom. Mitchell grew irritated when Felix began spending more and more time with Acevedo, bar-hopping and clubbing and taking trips to Chicago and Hawaii. Tension mounted and Mitchell told Felix he wished he would stay home more often. Nothing changed, and eventually, Mitchell moved out—on January 9, 2005—nine days before Oscar Sanchez was kidnapped.
Felix's family didn't know what to make of his friendship with Acevedo. They came from such different backgrounds. Felix grew up in much the same way that Oscar Sanchez had. His family owned several homes, his mother ran a store and held public office in Sinaloa, he had attended prestigious Catholic schools and graduated with a law degree, and his siblings were stylish professionals. Acevedo, on the other hand, had grown up as one of seven living in a one-room adobe shack in the Mexican interior. Relatives in his Zacatecas village told a Dallas Morning News reporter that as a boy, Acevedo tended goats and worked in the cornfields. The town he had grown up in had only one satellite phone; there were more chickens than television sets. His brothers told the News that they had never really liked him. An aunt said the boy had always been rebellious and distant, often disappearing to tend his goats in the mountains. According to relatives and neighbors in Dallas, Acevedo felt out of place and isolated as a young gay man growing up in a traditional Mexican hamlet.
He left home looking to reinvent himself, and after working in a factory on the border and moving to Dallas in 1999, he did—as a devilish, drug-peddling drag queen.
Felix and Acevedo had widely divergent personalities. Felix, who went by the nickname "Bebo," was described by friends and co-workers as a gentle man who helped other teachers with their computers, provided friends with free legal advice and even told a pregnant friend that if she would have her baby instead of aborting it he would help her care for it. In contrast, Acevedo was known as a heavy drinker with a volatile temper who stalked former boyfriends. One night in 2002, after a boyfriend left him for another man, he showed up at his ex's new residence uninvited. "He'd been watching us for a month," Antonio Parada would later testify in Spanish. "Someone knocked on the door and I saw it was Richie...He was knocking really hard. When I opened the door, the expression on his face—it was as if he were the devil." Acevedo had threatened Parada before. He'd said that he had killed a man in Mexico and knew powerful people there who would do his bidding. Parada had dismissed those stories, but that night, as Acevedo stood in his doorway, they all seemed plausible. "It doesn't matter if you hide under the rocks, I'm going to find you," Parada said Acevedo told him. Parada said when he grabbed his phone to call the police, Acevedo ripped it from his hand. "You're not calling anyone," he told him. "Watch out." Then he left.
By the time Acevedo met Felix, their stations in life weren't all that different. Unable to find work as a lawyer in the United States, Felix had taken a job at Taco Bell before signing on as a bilingual teacher with the Dallas Independent School District. Life had not gone according to plan for either man.
Just weeks before the kidnapping, the two friends paid a visit to Acevedo's cousin at her Dallas home. Antonia Acevedo would later tell the Morning News that her cousin bragged about the money he made selling drugs and liked to date older men who treated him lavishly. He was planning to leave town, he told her, and bid her goodbye. "He told me, 'I'm having some problems. I need to get out of here,"' she said. "He said he had one last business deal pending, and that if it went well he might go to Mexico for a while."