HRLR
Los Tocayos Carlos
Chapter 2
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Chapter 2

Manhunt

Kevan Baker wanted to forget Wanda Lopez’s final moments. He didn’t know Wanda,1 but her last conscious act before dying was to collapse in his arms, begging for help.2 Seconds before, he’d wrestled with his own conscience as he watched her through the window wrestling with her attacker.3

For a second or two, the smallish, blond, and bespectacled car salesman, who trained as a medic in the Navy,4 had debated whether to go to the woman’s aid or leave.5 When he decided to go to her, he came face to face with the fleeing attacker, who threatened to pull a gun on him.6

Even worse for Baker was his starring role at the criminal trial, five months later. By turns soft-spoken and profane, the thirty-three-year-old newlywed had no desire for attention except when he was at the wheel of his souped-up ‘67 Mercury Cougar.7 He didn’t relish being the sole eyewitness at a trial for a man’s life.8

The months from the murder to the trial were bad all around for Baker. Right after the murder, his marriage unraveled after only three months. Soon after the trial, he left Corpus Christi.9

* * * * *

Baker finished up work at 8:00 p.m. on that cool Friday evening.10 He was in a rush. He’d gotten off work an hour late, and his wife was waiting for him to pick her up so they could hit the clubs.11 Ten minutes later, he pulled his Cougar into the Sigmor for gas.12

As he put the nozzle in the tank, Baker heard a bang on the inside of the store window.13 “Aw, shit,” he thought, imagining the clerk was telling him to pay before pumping.14 Baker squeezed the grip anyway, knowing he was good for the few bucks and wanting to get out of there quickly.15 When no gas came out,16 Baker turned to look through the window at the clerk.17

That’s when he saw the wrestling.18 A Hispanic man was behind the counter, tussling with the female clerk.19

“I thought they were playing at first,” Baker said later.20 “That was my first impression—boyfriend and girlfriend. But the more seconds I stood there—I realized they weren’t playing.” The two were “fighting.” It was a struggle.”21

Baker recalled that “the gentleman had the lady and was trying hard to get her into the back of the store.”22 There was a back room there23 that the man was trying “to carry the clerk into,” and she was doing everything she could to hold herself back.24 At one point, the attacker grabbed her hair and jerked so hard with both hands that Baker was sure her hair must have come out.25

“Oh fuck,” Baker thought.26 “I don’t want to be here. Get in the car and leave.”27

But he didn’t have it in him to desert the struggling woman.28 “As an American,” he said later, he felt he “should do the right thing. . . . To me it seemed like the right thing to do was go walk towards the door.”29 So he did.

Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Pretrial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. June 20, 1983) at 27 (“Q. Did you know the attendant at that store? A. No.”).

Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Trial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 18, 1983) at 264 (“Q. Now, on that—on that particular date, can you tell us how late you were working? A. I worked till 8:00 o’clock every night that week.”);

Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Pretrial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. June 20, 1983) at 32 (“I got off at 8 o’clock or five minutes after, approximately.”).

Transcribed Audiotape Interview with Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, in Jackson, Mich. (Nov. 22, 2004) at 00:02–01:05 (“I was working as a car salesman, seven to seven. It was late.”);

Transcribed Audiotape Interview with Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, in Jackson, Mich. (Nov. 22, 2004) at 37:01–38:33:

Q. Ok. You had mentioned at [age] 33 you were planning to go out and do a little partying afterwards? What clubs did you go to down there?

A. Oh god, don’t ask me that. I don’t remember any of the names of them. And I can’t even remember where they are at now. But I was heading for, I was married in that time for about 3 months, and I don’t know if I was heading to my place or if I was heading to her place, our place. . . . But I guess I was heading home to her house or our house at the point because otherwise I would probably a’ gotten gas and went to the club.

Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Trial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 18, 1983) at 264 (“I was on my way home and I stopped to get some gas. Q. Where did you stop? A. At the Sigmor gas station.”);

Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Statement to Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983) (describing that on or about 8:15 p.m. he pulled into the Sigmor Shamrock station).

Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Statement to Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983) (describing the noise he heard as a “bang”);

Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Pretrial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. June 20, 1983) at 25–26, 35, 36 (“bang”);

Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Trial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 18, 1983) at 265, 267 (“bang,” “thump”);

Transcribed Audiotape Interview with Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, in Jackson, Mich. (Nov. 22, 2004) at 00:02–01:05 (“bang”).

Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Pretrial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. June 20, 1983) at 25–26 (recalling that “I heard a bang on the window,” “on the glass,” and “was thinking that she wanted me to come in and pay before I put gas in my car”);

Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Trial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 18, 1983) at 267 (stating that Baker heard a “thump” on the window and “assumed that the clerk was alerting me that I had to come in and pay for the gas first”);

Transcribed Audiotape Interview with Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, in Jackson, Mich. (Nov. 22, 2004) at 00:02 (“I got the gas nozzle off the pump, and went to insert it, and heard a bang on the window. I went, ‘Aw shit,’ you know, ‘I got to go in and pay first,’ which never had happened. I tried it and nothing came out. I looked up. . . .”).

Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Pretrial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. June 20, 1983) at 26 (“Q. What did you do when you heard the bang on the window? A. I just went ahead and squeezed—I had the nozzle in my trunk or in my gas tank I just went ahead and squeezed it to see if the nozzle would work or if it would pump gas and it didn’t, so then I looked up . . . .”);

Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Trial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 18, 1983) at 265 (“I heard this bang on the window and I proceeded to go ahead and try to pump gas and the pumps weren’t working.”);

Transcribed Audiotape Interview with Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, in Jackson, Mich. (Nov. 22, 2004) at 00:02 (“[Baker] got the gas nozzle off the pump, and went to insert it, and heard a bang on the window. I went, ‘Aw shit,’ you know, ‘I got to go in and pay first,’ which never had happened. I tried it and nothing came out. I looked up. . . .”).

Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Trial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 18, 1983) at 267 (“Q. Well, did the pump turn on when you tried to get gas? A. No, sir.”).

Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Pretrial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. June 20, 1983) at 26, 36 (“Q. What did you do when you heard the bang on the window? A. I just went ahead and squeezed—I had the nozzle in my trunk or in my gas tank and I just went ahead and squeezed it to see if the nozzle would work or if it would pump gas and it didn’t, so then I looked up and saw two people wrestling inside the store.”; noting that Baker first “squeezed the grip, no gas, of course, and then I looked [up]”);

Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Trial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 18, 1983) at 265, 267 (testifying that he “went to the pump and grabbed the nozzle and went to put it in the tank and just before I went to insert the nozzle into my tank, I heard this bang on the window and I proceeded to go ahead and try to pump gas and the pumps weren’t working.”; “Q. Well, did the pump turn on when you tried to get gas? A. No, sir. Q. What did you do then? A. I looked up and saw what was going on . . . .”).

Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Pretrial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. June 20, 1983) at 26, 36 (testifying that, “then I looked up and saw two people wrestling inside the store.”; “then I looked”; “Q. And that’s when you saw them wrestling? A. Yes.”);

Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Trial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 18, 1983) at 267 (“Q. And what did you see? A. I saw a man and a woman fighting.”).

See supra note 18.

Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Statement to Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983) (“I approached the lady coming out the front door. She had blood all over her. She fell into the building and I helped her on down to the ground. All she said was, ‘Help me, help me.’”);

Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Pretrial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. June 20, 1983) at 29 (“[S]he just kind of come against me, and then fell back into the building and started sliding down the side of the window right by the front door, and I seen the blood and she kept trying to get up and I kind of forced her to the ground so that she would lay down and remain calm.... [She said] ‘Help me. Help me.’”);

Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Trial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 18, 1983) at 274 (“A. I turned around and met the store clerk at the door, she had made it that far. Q. Okay. Did she say anything to you? A. She said, ‘Help me. Help me.’ Q. What did she do then? A. Fell back against the store window and slid to the ground.”).

Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Trial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 18, 1983) at 267–68 (“I saw a man and a woman fighting. . . . I thought they were playing at first, that was my first impression, boyfriend/girlfriend.”).

Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Pretrial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. June 20, 1983) at 26 (“I thought they were playing. . . . Well, it only took about two or three seconds to realize that they weren’t playing.”);

Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Trial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 18, 1983) at 267–68 (“I saw a man and a woman fighting. . . . I thought they were playing at first, that was my first impression, boyfriend/girlfriend. . . . [The] longer I stood there, the more seconds I stood there, I realized they weren’t playing.”);

Transcribed Audiotape Interview with Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, in Jackson, Mich. (Nov. 22, 2004) at 04:00–6:00 (“[I]t was a struggle [between the clerk and the man inside the gas station store].”).

Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Trial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 18, 1983) at 270 (“The gentleman had the lady . . . and [was] trying hard to get her into the back of the store . . .”).

See Transcribed Videotape Interview with Robert Stange, Shamrock Gas Station Manager, in Fredericksburg, Texas (Feb. 24, 2005) at 15:42:25–15:43:43 (“The counter . . . there was a work counter for the employees that faced the gas pumps. Then it was a 90-degree turn to look down the aisle of the store. The counter was 4, 5 feet long, then there was a back room behind us, directly opposite the window [describing a small room in the back, northwestern, corner of the store, behind the counter].”).

Bruno Mejia, Corpus Christi Police Officer, Supplementary Report (Feb. 4, 1983) at 1–2 (“Baker . . . advised me that, as he was getting ready to pump gas into his car, he saw the clerk inside the store struggling with a Hispanic male . . . . Mr. Baker, advised me that he then observed the subject attempt to carry the clerk into the back room of the store. . . . As he [Baker] neared the [back room] door, Mr. Baker advised that the subject released the girl and walked out of the store . . . .”);

Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Pretrial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. June 20, 1983) at 27, 35 (“[T]he gentleman was trying to pull the girl into the back room.”; “[The man was] pulling [the clerk] towards the back door toward, I suppose, a storage room and she was doing all she could to hold herself back.”);

Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Trial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 18, 1983) at 268, 269 (describing the man trying to “apparently pull her through the door into the rear of the store,” “this door right here [indicating on diagram],” and “[s]he was trying to hold herself back.”).

Transcribed Audiotape Interview with Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, in Jackson, Mich. (Nov. 22, 2004) at 04:00–06:00:

A. He has his two hands in her hair he was just jerking her as hard as he could jerk her. And when I looked, glanced up from pumping gas, or trying to, I looked up and that’s the first thing I saw. And my thought was, I should do the right thing. And I started walking towards the store.

Q. When you testified you mentioned that it appeared they were horsing around or wrestling or struggling?

A. Oh, no, it was a struggle. He definitely was just going . . . . He was probably pulling her hair out, because he was just jerking her trying to hide her in my opinion of it.”).

Transcribed Audiotape Interview with Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, in Jackson, Mich. (Nov. 22, 2004) at 00:02—01:05 (“I looked up and I seen this Hispanic gentleman pulling on the girl’s hair. Basically, I saw it and I thought, ‘oh fuck.’”).

Transcribed Audiotape Interview with Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, in Jackson, Mich. (Nov. 22, 2004) at 28:00–29:08 (“[M]y first thought was, ‘Oh fuck I don’t want to be here. Get in my car and leave.’”).

Transcribed Audiotape Interview with Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, in Jackson, Mich. (Nov. 22, 2004) at 00:02–01:05, 04:00–05:07, 28:00–29:08, 40:00–41:45, 45:37–end (“I saw it and I thought, ‘oh fuck.’ I don’t know, to me it seemed that the right thing to do was go walk towards the door.”; “And my thought was, I should do the right thing. And I started walking towards the store.”; “[M]y first thought was, ‘Oh fuck I don’t want to be here. Get in my car and leave.’ But I couldn’t. It’s not in me.”; “Like I said, my first thought is, ‘I don’t wanna be here.’ But I felt as an American, I should do the right thing.”; “I’m going, ‘God, this sucks, it really does.’ But I tried to do the right thing. I walked towards the store, and I tried to help her out. That’s basically what it was about.”).

Transcribed Audiotape Interview with Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, in Jackson, Mich. (Nov. 22, 2004) at 00:02–1:05, 40:00–41:45 (“I don’t know, to me it seemed that the right thing to do was go walk towards the door.”; “But I felt as an American, I should do the right thing. . . . To me it seemed like the right thing to do was go walk towards the door.”).

Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Statement to Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983) (“Before I could start to pump gas I heard this bang inside the store. I looked up and I seen this man pulling this lady from behind the counter by the hair . . . She appeared to be the clerk. When I seen him pulling her by the hair I first thought they were playing, then I noticed he was really pulling her. She was bent over and he was trying to force her into the back room.”);

Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Trial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 18, 1983) at 267–68:

Q. And what did you see?

A. I saw a man and a woman fighting.

Q. Now, when you saw them fighting, how were they fighting? Were they sitting there duking it out or what?

A. No he was pulling her hair and I thought they were playing at first, that was my first impression, boyfriend/girlfriend.

Q. And was there anything to change your mind about that?

A. Yeah, the longer—longer I stood there, the more seconds I stood there, I realized they weren’t playing.

Q. Did either one of them appear to be trying to accomplish some aim?

A. Yes, the gentleman was trying to—definitely pulling the lady by the hair, trying to—apparently pull her through the door into the rear of the store.

See Bruno Mejia, Corpus Christi Police Officer, Supplementary Report (Feb. 4, 1983) at 1–2 (“Kevan Baker . . . advised me that, as he was getting ready to pump gas into his car, he saw the clerk inside the store struggling with a Hispanic male . . . . The witness, Mr. Baker, advised me that he then observed the subject attempt to carry the clerk into the back room of the store . . . . As he [Baker] neared the [back room] door, Mr. Baker advised that the subject released the girl and walked out of the store . . . .”).

Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Trial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 18, 1983) at 264, 272, 273:

Q. I want to direct your attention back to February 4th of this year, 1983, and ask you where you were working on that particular date?

A. I was working for McKenzie Volkswagen.

Q. And what were you doing for them?

A. As a salesman.

. . .

Q. Okay. Now, I notice you are wearing glasses. Do you have some sort of visual defect?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Okay. What kind is it?

A. I’m nearsighted.

Q. Okay. Explain to me what that means.

A. I can’t see long distances without my glasses.

Q. Were you wearing your glasses that night?

A. Yes, sir.

. . .

Q. Can you tell the Jury—how tall are you?

A. I’m five foot six . . . .

Q. How much do you weigh?

A. I weigh a hundred sixty pounds.

Transcribed Audiotape Interview with Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, in Jackson, Mich. (Nov. 22, 2004) at 1:05 (“I was in the Navy, had [medic] training.”).

Transcribed Audiotape Interview with Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, in Jackson, Mich. (Nov. 22, 2004) at 00:02, 04:00, 28:00, 45:37 (“I looked up and I seen this Hispanic gentleman pulling on the girl’s hair. Basically, I saw it and I thought, ‘oh fuck.’ I don’t know, to me it seemed that the right thing to do was go walk towards the door.”; “And my thought was, I should do the right thing. And I started walking towards the store.”; “Or at least—but basically when I walked to the store my first thought was, ‘Oh fuck I don’t want to be here. Get in my car and leave.’ But I couldn’t. It’s not in me.”; “At [age] 33 or so, I’d been in the oat fields a long time, then traveled in the Navy and been around enough, and I’m going, ‘God, this sucks, it really does.’ But I tried to do the right thing. I walked towards the store, and I tried to help her out. That’s basically what it was about.”).

Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Pretrial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. June 20, 1983) at 28 (stating that there was no conversation between him and the fleeing man, “just a matter of that one comment . . . . ‘Don’t mess with me. I’ve got a gun.’ And I just stood there looking him in the eye and we kind of stood there for another two seconds and he took off.”);

Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Trial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 18, 1983) at 270, 280–81 (“We just looked each other face to face and he made the comment, ‘Don’t mess with me,’ and proceeded to run around the door. I was standing here on the curb or just off the curb and he come around and said, ‘Don’t mess with me,’ and took off . . . .”; “[H]e come out and met me and I assume he was still standing on the step, if you want to call it that, and the door shut or about the same time he said, ‘Don’t mess with me, I’ve got a gun,’ and we stood there for a few seconds and he took off running.”).

See Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Statement to Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983) (indicating “age thirty-two” at time of attack);

Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Trial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 18, 1983) at 263, 264 (“Q. And how old are you, Kevan? A. Thirty three.”; “I was driving a ‘67 Cougar.”);

see also Crime Scene Photograph 25500023, Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983) (showing Baker’s car, with jacked-up rear end and racing tires).

See Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, Trial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 18, 1983) at 265–66 (noting that Baker seems “a little nervous,” prosecutor Schiwetz asks him to “slow down”);

Transcribed Audiotape Interview with Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, in Jackson, Mich. (Nov. 22, 2004) at 40:00 (“Q. Have you had to deal with the police officers other than this case? A. Trying to think. No, not really. Not like this, you know. Like I said, my first thought is, ‘I don’t wanna be here.’ But I felt as an American, I should do the right thing.”).

Transcribed Audiotape Interview with Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, in Jackson, Mich. (Nov. 22, 2004) at 36:05–37:01:

Q. And as far as Corpus Christi, you had only been there 8 months?

A. Yeah about. This is ‘83 and I end up leaving in the summer of ‘85.

Q. Are you from Corpus Christi? Or are you from someplace else?

A. No. I’m from right here [in southern Michigan].

Q. You’re from right here. So you moved down there for—?

A. I was down there quite awhile, actually. ‘83. Maybe, no it wasn’t 8 months, I think I was there longer. I just don’t. I know I had lived in Houston for about a year. I was in Corpus, and I went to Houston and then I went back to Corpus because friends up here lived in both places, and I got in the car business about 8 months. ‘83 February. My mom died in ‘81. I’d been there probably a little over a year, I’m guessing, and I end up leaving, so I was there I’d say 5 years. But it was probably more like 4. But I was there for awhile afterwards.

Transcribed Audiotape Interview with Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, in Jackson, Mich. (Nov. 22, 2004) at 37:01 (“But she wasn’t much of a wife. Married 3 months, you know. So I really don’t remember. But I guess I was heading home to her house or our house at the point because otherwise I would probably a’ gotten gas and went to the club.”).

Chapter 2
Page: 1 of 16