Family Shattered After Oscar Sanchez's Murder

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Then, on the morning of January 27, nearly 10 days after Oscar was abducted, a detective spotted his body underneath a pile of plywood boards and construction debris. His hands were bound with duct tape. He had suffered an onslaught of blunt force blows to the head. There were some 19 gashes on his scalp, and his face was covered with scrapes and abrasions. His left index finger and right little finger were broken. Later, embedded in one of the lacerations, the medical examiner would find a gunshot wound and determine that Oscar had been shot through the back of the head.

While the Sanchez family planned the funeral, Jose Felix's attorney, John Read, held a news conference. He had made a career of taking headline-grabbing cases such as this one. A profane Vietnam vet with a thin white mustache and a taste for the theatrical, he stood before cameras wearing a black cowboy hat. "I'm here to tell you Jose Felix is not a murderer," he said with a thick Texas accent. "He doesn't have the heart for it. My understanding is there was a lot of coercion in this case, you'll find out later, lots of sex, money, things that motivate people in these kinds of cases." Had Felix not complied, Read asserted, Acevedo would have killed him or his relatives in Mexico. Read also suggested that Acevedo and Oscar had a social relationship and went to clubs together. The Dallas Morning News tracked down employees at the Hidden Door, a gay nightclub in Oak Lawn, who said they recalled seeing Oscar at the bar with the suspects. The claims outraged the Sanchez family. Not only were the comments baseless and absurd, family members said, they were cruel. Asked for comment on reports of Oscar being seen at gay clubs with his accused killers, a lawyer serving as a spokesman for the family said the news media were getting sucked into the defense's lies and called it "pure garbage." Laura Sanchez was disgusted. "That Read had the nerve to go on TV and say that, before my son was even buried," Laura would say later. "How dare he."

Oscar's friends couldn't believe it either. "We grew up in an environment where you were encouraged to be whoever you were. We went to a high school where it was almost encouraged [to be gay]," said his friend Jessica Koller, who knew Oscar since second grade. "We all knew homosexual people through our whole lives, and if he would've been [gay], he just would've been. He wasn't hiding anything."

No one in the family saw the body until it had been brought to the mortuary. When the body was prepared, Jesus saw it first. "I told my sister, 'Look, let me look at him first, OK? If he doesn't look good, I'll tell you no; if he looks good, I'll tell you yes.' I went in there, he looked good. They'd really made him up well. They'd hit him in the head so many times, but it didn't show. After me and my brother-in-law saw him, then my sister came in. It was tough. Seeing her holding him, kissing him.

"It's such a different feeling, holding a body like that. And it was her baby. He was her best friend. Every afternoon they would meet at Starbucks, they'd go have dinner three or four times a week."

Some 2,000 people turned out for the January 31 funeral at a downtown Dallas cathedral, clogging Central Expressway to the point that police had to shut down portions of the freeway to accommodate them. Hundreds stood outside the brick walls and stained glass windows of the century-old gothic-style cathedral. Television crews and reporters gathered outside the church. It was as if a local dignitary had died.

The Reverend Ramon Alvarez gave a eulogy alternating between English and Spanish. "As Oscar looks down from heaven toward us, he smiles," the priest said. "Now, he challenges us to go on with life." As mariachi music filled the cathedral, Oscar's sobbing widow followed the walnut casket out the door. Relatives consoled each other on the steps of the church while Oscar's uncle, Juan Sanchez, stood before the news cameras and read a written statement: "Oscar was a truly good person in every sense of the word who loved his wife Theresa deeply and was thankful to God for his daughter Helena. These people who committed this senseless, cruel and cowardly crime have taken away a husband, a father, a son and a leader in our community. Our family is strong and deeply united, and we will get through this, but we will never, ever forget."

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