Longform

Family Shattered After Oscar Sanchez's Murder

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His self-confidence probably came from the nurturing environment in which he was raised. Uncles and aunts lived just blocks away. On Sundays the large extended family often gathered at their grandmother's house for dinner. And even after Oscar's father was exiled to Mexico, the two remained close. Oscar Jr. traveled regularly to the ranch to visit, often taking his friends with him. Sometimes, they rode horseback in the desert together, pushing their horses as fast as they could go. Oscar's father, who could be an intimidating presence, entertained them with stories from his colorful life.

By the time Oscar left for college, it seemed the world was at his feet, and he couldn't get enough of it. He and his tight circle of friends, which had followed him to the University of Texas, traveled to Spain, New York, Miami—often on the spur of the moment. For road trips, Oscar burned CDs of all kinds of music, from the Wu-Tang Clan to Junior Brown. He ate up the works of Noam Chomsky, highlighting passages from Manufacturing Consent and dragging his girlfriend (and future wife) Theresa along with him to hear the philosopher speak when he visited the Austin campus.

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.

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Megan Feldman
Contact: Megan Feldman
Jesse Hyde
Contact: Jesse Hyde