Longform

Family Shattered After Oscar Sanchez's Murder

Page 5 of 10

Throughout the afternoon, there had been calls from the kidnappers. The voice on the other end was garbled and strange. At times, Laura had a hard time making it out. She didn't have $3 million, she said. The best she could do was $78,000. Without much argument, the voice on the other end agreed. She would put the money in a double plastic bag and drop it off in Arlington, off Abram Street.

By this time darkness was falling. A team of plainclothes policemen was watching the house on Royal Avenue. It was a little ranch house, brick with white shutters, in a nice, tree lined-neighborhood. The officers parked far enough away so as not to arouse suspicion and waited. But there was no movement inside. It appeared no one was home.

At the same time, a group of FBI agents and DPD officers were meeting in Arlington behind a large warehouse. Three officers would do the drop, one driving and two on the ground. The money, which was fake, and a tracking device would be placed in the plastic bags.

By 3 a.m., no one had shown up. What was worse, the kidnappers had stopped calling. The command post at Royal Avenue got word: It was time to enter the house. Detectives followed heavily armored SWAT agents as they busted down the door and swarmed into the sparsely furnished house. At the end of a hall, they reached the master bedroom. There, the furniture was in disarray and some of it was broken. The bed was rumpled and messy, with blood soaking the sheets and mattress. Blood seemed to be everywhere—smeared on the walls and windows and bedside table. Pieces of a broken black statuette lay on the bedside table and appeared to be covered in blood. The officers found a fired bullet on the bed, as well as two .25-caliber bullet casings and a black ski mask. Wherever Oscar Sanchez was, his chances of survival seemed slim.

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.

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Megan Feldman
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Jesse Hyde
Contact: Jesse Hyde