Rodriguez remembered well the reaction of De Peña and Lawrence when they came to his office to look at the evidence they had heard about from press coverage of the Vargas lawsuit. The evidence included photos of the crime scene never shown to the DeLuna jury, including pictures with the killer's bloody shoeprints inside the store and possibly on the sidewalk outside,218 a clump of the victim's hair,219 full panoramas of the blood stains and spatter behind the counter,220 and the lead detective standing on top of evidence.221 Rodriguez also had Shamrock records222 showing that employees were forbidden to keep more than $75 in the cash drawer at any one time.223
"We didn't get any of this shit" De Peña told Rodriguez.224
De Peña repeated the same complaint to the out-of-town investigators fifteen years later. "It was a result of the newspaper reporting what was transpiring in the courtroom and what the testimony was" in the Vargas suit that he found out what the police never told him—and what the jury never heard at DeLuna's 1983 trial.225
* * * * *
Rene Rodriguez was bothered by the police department's behavior, too. From his investigation, his heartbroken clients learned that they wouldn't have lost a mother, daughter, and sister if the police had done their job right.
Rodriguez had taken the Diamond Shamrock case personally. He turned the city upside down looking for evidence about what happened to Wanda and who was to blame.226 He found police records, for instance, showing that the neighborhood around the Sigmor was teeming with crime during those years. That Sigmor was no place to let a woman wait even a second when she called for help.227
But that, Rodriguez discovered, is exactly what the cops did to Wanda that night. Twice.
Contrary to the impression left by the tape the prosecutors played for the jurors at DeLuna's trial—the only tape the police gave to defense lawyers and the TV stations—Wanda called 911 not once, but twice.
Although police never made the first call public, its existence was well known inside the police department. Olivia Escobedo, who had left Corpus Christi before the trial in the Diamond Shamrock case, readily remembered the two calls when she recounted the events of Wanda's death to an investigator years later.228
"I remember listening to Ms. Lopez screaming on the tape," Escobedo said.229 "She had called once to say that there was a man outside with a knife, then I remember when she called back, trying to talk in a low voice" so the man wouldn't know she was calling the police. On the second call "you could hear her all of a sudden saying she would give him what he wanted" and "screaming as he attacked her."230
There were other clues, too. When the out-of-town investigators looked at the D.A.'s file on the DeLuna case in 2004, they found the Corpus Christi Police Department "call card" reporting Wanda's 911 call to Escochea at 8:09 p.m., when she is heard screaming and struggling with someone.231 The record is on a "Supplementary" form, one used for follow-up situations after some earlier action initiated police contact.232
And there was George Aguirre's statement to police and testimony at the DeLuna trial. He said he warned Wanda about a scary-looking Mexican guy outside with an open buck knife in his pocket233 and left only after hearing Wanda on the phone with the 911 operator, while the man with the knife was still outside.234 Aguirre saw Wanda making a different call from the one given to the defense lawyers on a tape cassette and played for the jury. The call heard by the jury began with Wanda telling Escochea that she was calling because the man she believed had a knife was already inside the store.235
See Crime Scene Photograph 25500028, Corpus Christi Police Dep't (Feb. 4, 1983);
Crime Scene Photograph 25500030, Corpus Christi Police Dep't (Feb. 4, 1983);
Crime Scene Photograph 25500033, Corpus Christi Police Dep't (Feb. 4, 1983);
Crime Scene Photograph 25500037, Corpus Christi Police Dep't (Feb. 4, 1983);
see supra Chapter 10, notes 113–133 and accompanying text & Figures 27, 28, 29 A version of Crime Scene Photograph 25500032, Corpus Christi Police Dep't (Feb. 4, 1983), was made an exhibit at the DeLuna trial, but it evidently was cropped slightly on the left and right sides in a way that excised the possible bloody shoe prints on the sidewalk outside the store that appear on the bottom right corner of the original photograph. See State's Ex. 4, Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 15, 1983).
See Crime Scene Photograph 25500007, Corpus Christi Police Dep't (Feb. 4, 1983);
Crime Scene Photograph 25500008, Corpus Christi Police Dep't (Feb. 4, 1983) (Feb. 4, 1983);
Crime Scene Photograph 25500031, Corpus Christi Police Dep't (Feb. 4, 1983);
See Crime Scene Photograph 25500019, Corpus Christi Police Dep't (Feb. 4, 1983);
supra Chapter 10, notes 98–99 and accompanying text & Figure 25; see also Transcribed Videotape Interview with Karen Boudrie-Evers, Corpus Christi Television Reporter, in Dallas, Texas (Feb. 28, 2005) at 03:12:39 (discussing conversation Boudrie had with Rene Rodriguez at the time she was covering the Vargas family lawsuit against Diamond-Shamrock for a local TV station, about the "shoddy police work" he had documented in the civil case, which included "Olivia Escobedo . . . stepping around in the evidence" and "might have said that something had been contaminated" and "that there had been some shoddy police work").
Transcribed Videotape Interview with Rene Rodriguez, Lawyer for Wanda Lopez Family in Suit Against Diamond-Shamrock, in Corpus Christi, Texas (December 8, 2004) at 6:01:42 ("I remember that it was either Hector de Peña, who later became a judge, after many years, or Jimmy Lawrence, James Lawrence. It could have been both of them because they were working together on the capital murder case. They were both court appointed. And I remember, because of something that they had heard, they came to my office and wanted to look at the file. And looking at this file, I remember them saying, 'We didn't get any of this, shit.'");
Pl.'s Ex. 4, Vargas v. Diamond Shamrock, No. 84–4951-D, 86–5900-D (Nueces Cty., 105th Dist. Tex. 1988) (showing blood on counter and the spatter behind it);
Pl.'s Ex. 13, Vargas v. Diamond Shamrock, No. 84–4951-D, 86–5900-D (Nueces Cty., 105th Dist. Tex. 1988) (showing possible bloody footprint outside the store);
Pl.'s Ex. 22, Vargas v. Diamond Shamrock, No. 84–4951-D, 86–5900-D (Nueces Cty., 105th Dist. Tex. 1988) (showing bloody footprint inside the store );
Pl.'s Ex. 26, Vargas v. Diamond Shamrock, No. 84–4951-D, 86–5900-D (Nueces Cty., 105th Dist. Tex. 1988) (showing blood spatter behind the counter and a clump of the victim's hair);
Pl.'s Ex. 29, Vargas v. Diamond Shamrock, No. 84–4951-D, 86–5900-D (Nueces Cty., 105th Dist. Tex. 1988) (reporting that Sigmor's "Rules & Regulations For Personnel" prohibited keeping more than $75 in the cash drawer at any one time).
Transcribed Videotape Interview with Hector De Peña, Jr., Trial Lawyer for Carlos DeLuna, in Corpus Christi, Texas (Feb. 23, 2005) at 12:01:03 at 12:31:00-12:34:37:
Q.At the trial, the police played a tape of Miss Lopez calling the police about a man inside the store with a knife. But did you subsequently learn that there were additional efforts that Miss Lopez made . . . to have the police—
A. Apparently, my understanding was, that more than one phone call was made to the dispatcher asking that a police officer be called to the spot. . . .
Q. And what was the problem, what were they complaining about towards the city?
A. They [the Corpus Christi Police Department dispatcher and 911 operator] just kept contending they wanted the girl to give them a description rather than send someone out [in a squad car]. I don't know, I ultimately don't know if it was whether or not somebody was available, but generally there was always officers patrolling that part of Padre Island Drive. In fact, my understand is, from the record that once they heard her screaming or whatever, you know, a police officer arrived within 4 or 5 minutes or less to the gas station. And I think that's why the argument was, ultimately, had the officer arrived when she first contacted them, conceivably this would have been prevented.
Q. Ok. I'm going to read another one of these [passages from notes from a prior interview with De Peña] that we were talking about: "Mr. De Peña remembers that there were two phone calls from Lopez to the police. The first one was when the customer outside by the pump came in and warned Ms. Lopez. The second was when the perpetrator came in. He remembers that this information came out from the civil suit [brought by the Wanda Lopez's family against Diamond Shamrock]. At trial they did not know about the first call, only the second call. We didn't hear about the first call until the civil suit was litigated. Rene Rodriguez handled that suit." Is that accurate?
A. To the best of my recollection, that's accurate. We did not learn about the first phone call until, you know, after the criminal trial had been held. . . . Basically, I think I learned it through the publication that came out in the press as the [civil] case was being, as the case proceeded in the course of its trial. I think it was a result of the newspaper reporting what was transpiring in the courtroom and what the testimony was. And it was, I believe, through the newspapers' description of some of the testimony that I learned that apparently not just one phone call had been made, which was the copy of the recording we had, but there had been an earlier phone call asking for assistance from the police department.
Q. What was your reaction when you heard that?
A. . . . [C]oncern that we didn't have access to it at the time [of DeLuna's trial].
Transcribed Videotape Interview with Rene Rodriguez, Lawyer for Wanda Lopez Family in Suit Against Diamond-Shamrock, in Corpus Christi, Texas (Dec. 8, 2004) at 06:05:11–06:08:40:
I remember I hired an investigator. I remember getting a lot of criminal records, the calls that were made [about crimes committed] in the whole area for a period of time, I don't remember if it was two years or three years before [inaudible]. And there were computer pages and pages of calls [about crimes]. And a lot of them at that Wolfies. . . . I'd go to the Police Department and demand stuff . . and I would talk, I mean, I went to the neighborhood. I went knocking up and down on the doors and stuff.
Transcribed Videotape Interview with Rene Rodriguez, Lawyer for Wanda Lopez Family in Suit Against Diamond-Shamrock, in Corpus Christi, Texas (December 8, 2004) at 05:45:–05:46:22:
A. Yeah, I obtained records from the police department, trying to get the criminal activity of the area. There was a lot of crime in that area. Mostly assaultive type crimes too. I mean, there were a lot of shooting[s] in that bar, next to, Wolfies, it was called. There was shootings, I think even one of the Banditos got killed there [at Wolfys] at one time. A lot of stabbings. Just a lot of assaultive type crimes in that whole area.
Q. Were there any crimes that had affected the Diamond Shamrock?
A. Yes, there were others. Well, there were basically fights that ended up from the bar, in the Shamrock, you know, those types of things. I don't remember right now whether there was any robberies or such at the Shamrock. I don't remember. There may have been.
Tamara Theiss's Notes of Interview with Olivia Escobedo, Corpus Christi Police Detective in Wanda Lopez and Dahlia Sauceda Cases (Feb. 27. 2005) at 2 ("I remember listening to Ms. Lopez screaming on the tape when DeLuna grabbed her. She had called once to say that there was a man outside with a knife, then I remember when she called back, trying to talk in a low voice so DeLuna wouldn't know who she was talking too. Then you could hear her all of a sudden saying she would give him what he wanted, then her screaming as he attacked her.").
See Supplementary Call Card #1, Corpus Christi Police Dep't (Feb. 4, 1983) at 1 (reporting that the "clerk" from Shamrock—Wanda Lopez—called the police department at 8:09 p.m.).
Supplementary Call Card, Corpus Christi Police Dep't (Feb. 4, 1983) at 1.
See Steve Mills & Maurice Possley, 'I Didn't Do It. But I Know Who Did,' Chi. Trib., June 25, 2006, available at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-tx-1-story,0,653915.story?page=5 ("Aguirre went inside to warn Lopez . . . . She said she would call the police, and Aguirre . . . left. When Lopez did call, a dispatcher said officers could do nothing unless the man came inside. Minutes later, when he did, Lopez redialed police, and dispatcher Jesse Escochea took the call."); supra Chapter 2, notes 75–86 and accompanying text; infra note 230 and accompanying text.
George Aguirre, Witness to Events Outside Shamrock Gas Station, Statement to Corpus Christi Police Dep't (Feb. 4, 1983) at 1 ("While paying the lady I told her about the man with the knife outside. . . . So I heard her call the police and when she did I started to walk out toward my van and I seen the man I just spoke of in this statement as having a knife . . . .");
George Aguirre, Witness to Events Outside Shamrock Gas Station, Pretrial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. June 20, 1983) at 16–17 ("Q. Let me stop you just for a second there. When you went to talk to the attendant, did you go inside the station . . .? A. I went inside, she was behind the counter. . . . I told her that the guy outside had a knife, and she asked if he was with me, and I said no, he wasn't. . . . So that's when she got on the phone and phoned the police while she was writing out my ticket [for gas].");
George Aguirre, Witness to Events Outside Shamrock Gas Station, Trial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 18, 1983) at 226 ("Yes, I told her that the guy outside had a knife in his pocket and it was open and she asked if he was with me and I told her no and I told her I was going to go down the street and call the police. And she said, 'For real?' and I said, 'Yes.' And she says, 'Well, I'll call them anyway.' So she got on the phone and she called the police station.").
Transcript of Wanda Lopez's Phone Call to Corpus Christi Police Dep't on Feb. 4, 1983 at 8:09 (Feb. 10, 1983) ("W. Lopez: Yes. Can you have an officer come to 2602 SPID. I have a suspect with a knife inside the store.").