Longform

The lies that BIND

Page 8 of 9

When his attorney turned the topic to Kelly, Sanchez raised his eyebrows and growled in a barely audible voice "She's a headache, OK?" Then, glaring at Doolin and her colleagues, he said "She'll dance circles around the CPS psychologists and laugh about it when they're not looking."

In his mind, Kelly is a crafty, conniving, headstrong liar. She helped put him where he is, he said, though "I bear no ill will toward her."

And when he read what he dubbed "Kelly's recantation letter," the room fell silent. Kelly, he said, sent him the letter shortly after he went to jail, after she had realized what she had done.

"I wish this all would be a nightmare, but it isn't," Sanchez read. "I don't know what to do...I don't want to be in the spotlight anymore...I love 'em just too much, the kids, Richard, Monica, and Sonya. They're all big now. They're all so cute. I have already scarred them up good. I'm doing good in school, but I could be doing better if my life were happier."

Under Doolin's cross-examination, Sanchez said "Kelly is a sweet person, but she's hard to control. Except when I'm present."

Three days passed before the Sanchez-Cantu jury reached its verdict. The family's lawyers spent the time gabbing with reporters and running to other hearings for other clients. The Sanchez clan often walked the hallways, or sat in a small witness room off Gaither's courtroom. They rarely spoke to reporters.

On the second afternoon of deliberations, John Camarillo, who had testified on behalf of his aunt Lilia earlier in the trial, sat in an empty room in the courthouse, recounting memories of his childhood and his extended family. Camarillo, 17, moved from Gonzales, Texas, four years ago to his aunt's Dallas home. The small town, near San Antonio, offered little to keep a teenager busy, Camarillo said, and he was always bored. "There's a Wal-Mart and a McDonald's. That's about it."

He will graduate this spring from Sunset High, and has witnessed all of the charges and convictions and trials surrounding the fate of his younger cousins. "It has been so hard," he said. "So hard. My uncle, he's a good man. My Aunt Lilia is a good person. There have been so many lies. There's just a lot of confusion."

Like his cousin Richard, Camarillo seems befuddled, completely mystified by the charges of sexual abuse various females in his family have lodged against the men. To hear him tell it, it's almost as if the girls are born with a gene that programs them to lie, to fabricate incredible stories of incest and rape. The men, it seems, are hapless victims.

"My cousin, she lives in Gonzales," he said. "She's about 15 now. She always caused a lot of trouble. She made accusations against my grandfather that he sexually abused her."

The allegations were untrue, Camarillo said, but his grandfather went to jail anyway, and died three years ago. "And Gabby is still down in Gonzales, causing trouble.

"The girls in my family, I don't know. Sometimes I think they have a problem with the truth."

John Ferguson, Juror No. 6 in the Cantu-Sanchez trial, would likely disagree with Camarillo's perception of his family. So would nine of his fellow jurors. On April 14, the panel delivered its verdict: 10-2 in favor of awarding all three children--Kelly, Monica, and Sonya--to Child Protective Services.

A few days after their verdict, some of the jurors discussed their deliberations. Most chose not to respond to a request to be interviewed by the Observer.

Ferguson, a 55-year-old father of three and recent first-time grandfather, arrived at his decision rather quickly, and he never doubted Kelly or Bertha Cantu's allegations against Sanchez for a minute. Sitting in a small classroom in the Richland Community College, where he is a reference librarian and English instructor, Ferguson says "It was uncanny how you could see the family throughout the trial falling into lock-step right behind Richard. This family has a truth problem."

Juror J.C. Cannon, grizzled and gray-haired, called the decision to cut off Sanchez and Cantu from their children a "no-brainer." But the jury haggled for nearly three full days over who should take charge of the children. Juror Freddie Wilson, a lay minister, struggled with cutting the children off entirely from their grandmother--a soft-spoken woman who had impressed him from the witness stand with her common sense opinions about love and discipline. Wilson was one of the two jurors to hold out for Lilia. "I wanted that bond. She was strong. I wanted the children with their blood relatives."

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Holly Mullen