By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
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John Lendvay, who considered Oscar his best friend, said he thinks about him every day. "I miss him," he says simply. "And every day I have to think of new ways to keep him alive in my heart."
His sister Elise met Oscar in the fifth grade when her family moved from Garland to Oak Cliff. When the teacher asked for a volunteer to show Elise around, Oscar raised his hand. "I remember being sort of nervous, being the new kid, and him leading me to the gym where all the kids were and he just totally put me at ease."
Oscar's uncle Jesus, who tapped his nephew to be his ring bearer at his third wedding, says it has been hard for him to overcome the guilt he initially felt after the kidnapping. "We knew where they were holding him, and maybe if we had gone over right when we found out, not waited for the police, something would have been different," he says. "In my mind, I think Oscar tried to run, to escape. He might've seen they were going to kill him and he fought.
"But Oscar had never had a fight in his life. He was a gentle guy, good-natured."
There is no telling how he suffered in those final moments, but the medical examiner's report tells part of the story. The broken bones in two fingers suggest he held up his hands to ward off the blows.
It's a warm September morning in Oak Cliff. At El Ranchito, the news racks at the front doors are empty. But they will be filled soon enough. There are other stories to tell, papers to sell. A woman in Haltom City tried to burn her three children to death. A University of North Texas student was strangled. The verdict was just three days ago, and already, the papers are moving on. They have already forgotten Oscar Sanchez Jr.
Inside the restaurant, Laura Sanchez is getting ready to leave. She has that flight to catch to Monterrey. She needs to walk the land that has belonged to her family since her childhood and will belong to them for generations more. She needs to breathe the fresh air and clear her head of all the lies.
One of the killers has been convicted, but she wonders when the whispering and wild theories will stop. She has endured so much, so many ridiculous allegations. They are feeble and pathetic attempts to explain a crime that makes no sense. Perhaps it is comforting for people to believe the victim was in some way responsible for his death, or that the family's past came back to haunt them. What no one seems willing to accept is that the simplest explanation is also the most likely: Oscar Sanchez Jr. was kidnapped by two men who wanted the life he had and were willing to kill to get it.
It bewilders her sometimes, even after all the trips to therapists, that this happened to her family. In Mexico, crimes such as these are common, but in America she thought things were different. She thought she had left the lawlessness and wildness of her native country behind. And yet somehow, it followed her and took two of the most important people in her life.
There is no reason to any of it. There is no lesson to be learned. Sometimes you just endure. And that is life. Sooner or later, we all lose the things that are most precious to us.
One day, for her own sanity, she will have to forgive the men who did this. Her priest and therapists have told her as much. One day, she says as she rises to leave. One day. But not yet.
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