Blood Vow

For agent Tase Bailey, the transforming moment came as they unearthed the victims, dumped together in their rural grave. The FBI man had seen many dead bodies before, but never a bullet-riddled mother and her little boy, curled up in his pajamas, murdered for no reason at all. Suddenly, what began as a routine drug case no longer was. Bailey vowed to track down their killer and did, artfully luring him into a trap. Now, on a summer evening 10 years later, the agent would keep a second promise, to watch the infamous Genaro "Geno" Ruiz Camacho--among the most feared and despised defendants ever tried in a Texas courtroom--die by lethal injection.

Standing silently in the low-lit cool of the death chamber's witness room, he stared at the doomed man who was strapped to a gurney, an intravenous line sticking out of his arm. Executions ordinarily didn't interest Bailey, but Camacho was no ordinary criminal, and the white-knuckle struggle to catch him--a secret operation until now--had been no ordinary investigation. Bailey still was haunted by what he had discovered at Camacho's crime scenes: In a brief spasm of violence, the fugitive had taught the FBI agent and other North Texas investigators more than any of them cared to know about the darkest side of human behavior.

Bailey also knew another unnerving thing about the coolly self-contained, even genial, prisoner, who now was chatting amiably through the window with his family: Camacho very nearly eluded capture altogether. Without a serendipitous assist from an unexpected source, plus exceptional luck and the success of a clever subterfuge, Bailey would never have brought him to justice.

Imagining that possibility was another good cause for Bailey to wish Camacho dead. His loathing for the killer was palpable, a bitter knot inside him. And now that Camacho's legal ammunition was spent, Bailey was free to express it.

"Suck it up, Mr. Badass," he muttered under his breath. "You're going to be dead in about five minutes."

The chemicals began to flow, and Bailey could hear the killer's family in the adjacent room banging at the glass, hoping for one last glance from their dying husband and father. It didn't come.

Then the prison doctor stepped forward, and Bailey finally moved his gaze from the lifeless figure in front of him. Geno Camacho was dead. Bailey turned, and as he walked out into the warm Texas night, he felt the hard lump of hatred begin to dissolve.

FBI violent crimes squads are do-all teams responsible for everything from chasing down federal fugitives to catching bank robbers. In the spring of 1988, in addition to handling their normal caseloads of maybe 30 investigations apiece, Bailey and his 13 fellow agents on the Dallas FBI's violent crimes squad were busy with the heartbreaking, unsolved abduction-murders of two girls--10-year-old Christie Proctor and 3-year-old Tamela Reyes--as well as the recent capture of a notorious serial bank robber, known locally as the Dapper Bandit.

Then, around 8:30 on Friday morning, May 20, four male UNSUBs--unknown subjects in FBI parlance--burst into a crack house in the southeast Dallas neighborhood of Pleasant Grove, where the intruders abducted Evellyn Banks, 31, a sometime drug dealer, and Banks' 3 1/2-year-old son Andre. Witnesses said two of the kidnappers appeared to be Hispanic. The third man was Anglo and the fourth black.

Sam Junior Wright, 52, Andre's father (and a fugitive drug dealer himself), had run from the house, shouting to neighbors to call 9-1-1. When the Dallas police arrived, they discovered the body of 25-year-old David Wilburn, Sam Wright's nephew, slumped on the floor. A single .357-caliber slug had been discharged at close range into the back of Wilburn's head.

Though bloody and violent, the episode was unexceptional in the illegal drug trade, what some jaded narcs call a "misdemeanor homicide." Agent Bailey, who had taken Friday off to be with his oldest daughter as she had her tonsils removed, heard about the incident on the radio and paid the news no special mind. Then, early the next evening, Bailey received a telephone call at home from agent Jose Figueroa, also of the violent crimes squad.

Figueroa explained that Sam Wright, now in hiding, had telephoned the FBI to report that the leader of the kidnap gang was a drug dealer known to him only as "Geno" who had snatched Evellyn and Andre as hostages against $30,000 Banks owed him for 25 pounds of marijuana.

David Wilburn, Wright continued, was an innocent victim. The volatile Geno had grabbed an accomplice's handgun, pushed the mildly retarded Wilburn to the floor, and executed him--simply to underscore how serious he was about recovering his money. Wright's only other information was that police in Mesquite recently had arrested Geno.

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Stephen G. Michaud