Longform

The lies that BIND

Page 7 of 9

"He is, um, kind of difficult," Aland said of his client after trial one day. "But he's frustrated listening to all of this."

Delia Cantu heard the proceedings from a court-appointed interpreter. She sat behind her husband and beside her in-laws. Her relatives often held hands and comforted each other, but they were noticeably frosty toward Delia. The 32-year-old mother wore a pantsuit to court each day because, as she pointed out one day in the women's restroom while showing her electronic ankle monitor, "I don't want them to see this."

When Assistant District Attorney Colleen Doolin called Cantu to testify, she invoked her right against self-incrimination and took the Fifth Amendment out of range of the jury. Medlock, a huge man built like a side-by-side icebox, said during a court recess it was his best option. "She's got these cases still pending against her," he said, his big voice echoing in the hallway. "They would have gone after her."

Missing the chance to question Cantu did not appear to pain Doolin. Strictly business, hair pulled into a bun, her stare piercing, the prosecutor zeroed in on the rest of her witnesses--a well-oiled machine of veteran psychologists, social workers, and foster parents--to prove the children were damaged not only by Sanchez, but by his entire extended family.

Paul Tathia, a psychologist with the Dallas Independent School District and a group therapist for families of sex offenders, testified that Lilia, Patricia, and Raquel Sanchez attended only six of 24 CPS-mandated counseling sessions before dropping out of the program. The family, he said, never accepted the accusations that Kelly had leveled against her stepfather. And CPS had clearly told them that no move to reunify the family could begin until they believed Kelly.

"When a victim makes an outcry of sexual abuse, every member of the family must make a choice of who to believe," Tathia said. "If they side with the adult, they would have to go into denial in order to live with themselves." The Sanchez family, he testified, with its steady characterizations of Kelly as a liar and promiscuous, was exhibiting denial "in its strongest form."

In her turn on the stand, Lilia Sanchez, who had wept silently through much of the earlier testimony, sat stoically, describing Kelly as a girl with behavior problems and Delia Cantu as a person who "easily misinterprets things." She said the family stopped attending group therapy when they learned from caseworker Alison Farmer that CPS had ruled out ever returning the children.

But, of course, she did not accept that decision. "I think the best place for them is in my home," Lilia said. "Nobody can love them more than I do."

And when Doolin looked icily at Lilia and asked her what her plans for Kelly would be, should she be returned to the home, Lilia responded: "I have a little bit of strength to hold her back. Look at these people," she said, pointing toward the CPS team flanking Doolin at the table. "They all have degrees. But look. Where is Kelly now?...You are the ones who lost her. Tell me where she is and I'll go get her."

Richard Sanchez, shackled at the ankles, hobbled to the stand as the final witness for his family. Resigned to the fact that he would most certainly lose his children, he wanted to endorse his mother as the best hope for his children's future.

More than that, though, he wanted his day in court. In his criminal trial last year, Sanchez did not testify on the advice of his attorney. This time would be different. "He feels like he never got the chance to tell what happened," said Aland, his attorney for this go-round. "So now he gets his chance."

Sanchez wore the same white shirt, black jeans, black necktie, and black suspenders he had worn every day. He settled his bulky torso into the witness stand, and squinted straight ahead at the state's attorneys he so hated. He was going to tell it to the jury.

He told of dropping out of high school at age 16 to support his family with a string of jobs. He told of three and a half years as a cab-company supervisor. "I trained all the drivers," Sanchez said. "I taught protection skills to the drivers. I advised all the drivers to carry all these sawed-off, I mean, these short shotguns."

He brushed over two convictions for drug possession--one in 1986 and the one in 1990 that netted him an 18-month sentence. He recounted how he met Delia Cantu in a store in Mexico in 1981. She was 17. Kelly was a baby; her father, who never married Delia, abandoned them while Delia was pregnant. After producing three children together, "we finally documented it," by marrying in 1992, Sanchez said. On cross-examination he admitted to having herpes and syphilis. ("It's syphilis 2 percent," he said. "It will never go away.")

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Holly Mullen