Longform

Family Shattered After Oscar Sanchez's Murder

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He left home looking to reinvent himself, and after working in a factory on the border and moving to Dallas in 1999, he did—as a devilish, drug-peddling drag queen.

Felix and Acevedo had widely divergent personalities. Felix, who went by the nickname "Bebo," was described by friends and co-workers as a gentle man who helped other teachers with their computers, provided friends with free legal advice and even told a pregnant friend that if she would have her baby instead of aborting it he would help her care for it. In contrast, Acevedo was known as a heavy drinker with a volatile temper who stalked former boyfriends. One night in 2002, after a boyfriend left him for another man, he showed up at his ex's new residence uninvited. "He'd been watching us for a month," Antonio Parada would later testify in Spanish. "Someone knocked on the door and I saw it was Richie...He was knocking really hard. When I opened the door, the expression on his face—it was as if he were the devil." Acevedo had threatened Parada before. He'd said that he had killed a man in Mexico and knew powerful people there who would do his bidding. Parada had dismissed those stories, but that night, as Acevedo stood in his doorway, they all seemed plausible. "It doesn't matter if you hide under the rocks, I'm going to find you," Parada said Acevedo told him. Parada said when he grabbed his phone to call the police, Acevedo ripped it from his hand. "You're not calling anyone," he told him. "Watch out." Then he left.

By the time Acevedo met Felix, their stations in life weren't all that different. Unable to find work as a lawyer in the United States, Felix had taken a job at Taco Bell before signing on as a bilingual teacher with the Dallas Independent School District. Life had not gone according to plan for either man.

Just weeks before the kidnapping, the two friends paid a visit to Acevedo's cousin at her Dallas home. Antonia Acevedo would later tell the Morning News that her cousin bragged about the money he made selling drugs and liked to date older men who treated him lavishly. He was planning to leave town, he told her, and bid her goodbye. "He told me, 'I'm having some problems. I need to get out of here,"' she said. "He said he had one last business deal pending, and that if it went well he might go to Mexico for a while."

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.

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