Family Shattered After Oscar Sanchez's Murder

Sanchez's family thought they'd left the lawlessness of Mexico behind. But somehow it caught up with them.

On January 23, five days after Oscar disappeared, Felix was arrested at Midway International Airport in Chicago, about to board a plane for Mexico. News footage showed a small, frail man, his back hunched and his head down, his arms dangling by his side as officers led him to the Dallas County jail. Neither he nor Acevedo, who police had learned was already at large in Mexico, had the look of kidnappers or killers. "Never in a million years would I have thought it was these two feminine-looking people," Laura would say later. "I thought it was someone professional."

After his arrest, Felix told police that Acevedo had kidnapped him too and forced his participation. He said he was in the house that morning when Acevedo came in with two other men—one had a bag over his head and was led into the master bedroom. The other, he said, wore a ski mask and didn't reveal his identity. Felix claimed he didn't know anything about the ransom calls, although he was carrying a voice-altering device with an ear bud and a cell phone plug-in when police arrested him. Finally, he told police that Oscar was dead. They had dumped his body in remote southern Dallas, he said, off of Interstate 20.

Police began searching fields in Southeast Dallas by foot, air and horseback. On the first day, in a mess of bogs and brambles off Dowdy Ferry Road by the Trinity River, they found cardboard, a mop handle and a towel—all with blood on them. They continued to search for the next several days, fanning out over a broader swath of land south of Interstate 20. The landscape was ragged, the vegetation overgrown, as if it could pop up through the cement and overtake the highway. The search teams tromped through the thick brush and mud in the wet cold while fire-and-rescue crews set out in boats to troll the murky Trinity River. Meanwhile, detectives in Chicago had located Felix's pickup truck, which the men used to flee. Detectives in Dallas impounded the Cavalier used in the kidnapping and found a .25-caliber pistol in the glove box. They also found one of Felix's DISD business cards and an ID card that belonged to Acevedo.

Oscar and Theresa Sanchez began dating while in college at UT. In December 2005, just six weeks before Oscar was murdered, Theresa gave birth to a baby girl named Helena.
Oscar and Theresa Sanchez began dating while in college at UT. In December 2005, just six weeks before Oscar was murdered, Theresa gave birth to a baby girl named Helena.

Then, on the morning of January 27, nearly 10 days after Oscar was abducted, a detective spotted his body underneath a pile of plywood boards and construction debris. His hands were bound with duct tape. He had suffered an onslaught of blunt force blows to the head. There were some 19 gashes on his scalp, and his face was covered with scrapes and abrasions. His left index finger and right little finger were broken. Later, embedded in one of the lacerations, the medical examiner would find a gunshot wound and determine that Oscar had been shot through the back of the head.

While the Sanchez family planned the funeral, Jose Felix's attorney, John Read, held a news conference. He had made a career of taking headline-grabbing cases such as this one. A profane Vietnam vet with a thin white mustache and a taste for the theatrical, he stood before cameras wearing a black cowboy hat. "I'm here to tell you Jose Felix is not a murderer," he said with a thick Texas accent. "He doesn't have the heart for it. My understanding is there was a lot of coercion in this case, you'll find out later, lots of sex, money, things that motivate people in these kinds of cases." Had Felix not complied, Read asserted, Acevedo would have killed him or his relatives in Mexico. Read also suggested that Acevedo and Oscar had a social relationship and went to clubs together. The Dallas Morning News tracked down employees at the Hidden Door, a gay nightclub in Oak Lawn, who said they recalled seeing Oscar at the bar with the suspects. The claims outraged the Sanchez family. Not only were the comments baseless and absurd, family members said, they were cruel. Asked for comment on reports of Oscar being seen at gay clubs with his accused killers, a lawyer serving as a spokesman for the family said the news media were getting sucked into the defense's lies and called it "pure garbage." Laura Sanchez was disgusted. "That Read had the nerve to go on TV and say that, before my son was even buried," Laura would say later. "How dare he."

Oscar's friends couldn't believe it either. "We grew up in an environment where you were encouraged to be whoever you were. We went to a high school where it was almost encouraged [to be gay]," said his friend Jessica Koller, who knew Oscar since second grade. "We all knew homosexual people through our whole lives, and if he would've been [gay], he just would've been. He wasn't hiding anything."

No one in the family saw the body until it had been brought to the mortuary. When the body was prepared, Jesus saw it first. "I told my sister, 'Look, let me look at him first, OK? If he doesn't look good, I'll tell you no; if he looks good, I'll tell you yes.' I went in there, he looked good. They'd really made him up well. They'd hit him in the head so many times, but it didn't show. After me and my brother-in-law saw him, then my sister came in. It was tough. Seeing her holding him, kissing him.

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