These were not the slovenly clothes Baker described, nor the blue jeans Aguirre initially recalled. And unlike the unshaven and mustachioed man Baker saw at the gas station,147 the man who jogged east past the Arsuagas was clean-shaven.148
The witnesses’ reports about location and timing also conflicted. The Arsuagas were at the Phase III, more than a football field east of the Sigmor along the SPID frontage road, when the man in the dress shirt jogged past at a leisurely pace.149 John Arsuaga gave the time as “shortly” or “five minutes” after 8:00 p.m.150
This didn’t jibe with Baker’s observation—confirmed by the manhunt tape—of Wanda Lopez’s attacker still in the gas station door six minutes later. And it conflicted with Baker’s statement that the man sprinted in a completely different direction, heading north “behind” the gas station.151 That put the suspect near Dodd Street, and cops swarming the area received reports from “several” people of a man running north and slightly behind the gas station to Dodd Street and further north along that street towards McArdle.152
Baker and the other witnesses gathered near the ice machine noticed the inconsistencies, too, and struggled to “sort [them] out.”153 “We were all together,” Baker later recalled, “collaborating,” trying to make sense of what everyone saw.154
Figure 2: TV news videotape of the Sigmor Shamrock gas station on the night of the stabbing. (Left) Medical technicians work on Wanda Lopez in front of the store (visible over the hood of the police car) , while some of the witnesses (visible over the top of the white car) look on from near the ice machine. (Right) Close-up of (from left) George Aguirre, Julie Arsuaga and John Arsuaga.
* * * * *
All nine of the BOLOs Mejia broadcast over a twenty-minute span that night included Baker’s description of a man in a flannel jacket and gray sweatshirt.155 The sergeant wavered, however, in broadcasting the information he got from Aguirre about the long-sleeve T-shirt—occasionally including it in his BOLOs, but usually omitting it. Mejia never felt comfortable enough about the Arsuagas’ report of a button-down dress shirt to include it in any of the BOLOs.156
At first, in fact, Mejia only included descriptions of any sort from Aguirre and the Arsuagas when accompanied by expressions of doubt or a warning that the description might refer to a different person.157 Only in his final BOLO, which guided the last eighteen minutes of the search, did Mejia give up trying to keep the witnesses’ accounts separate and merge them into a single description.158
In that description, the assailant’s clothes were a confusing blend of all the witnesses’ recollections, while the assailant’s facial hair tracked what the Arsuagas recalled (“clean shaven”) and contradicted what Baker had seen (“moustache,” ten days’ growth of beard).159 In this and all of his BOLOs, Mejia left out precious bits of information.
The first time one of Mejia’s BOLOs tacked on information from Aguirre and the Arsuagas was at 8:16, about six minutes after Wanda screamed.160 In this new bulletin, Mejia collapsed the Arsuagas’ description of a white, partially unbuttoned dress shirt into Aguirre’s description of a white long-sleeved T-shirt.161 Aware of the discrepancies between what he was hearing from the Arsuagas and the other witnesses, the sergeant cautioned that the new information might describe someone different from the rest of the BOLO:
See supra note 47 and accompanying text.
On the location, see John Arsuaga, Witness to Man Running Near Shamrock Gas Station, Statement to Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983) at 1 (“I noticed that he was running across a field beside Phase III and then he cut across at about a 45 degree angle behind Lebowitz Furniture”);
Steven Fowler, Corpus Christi Police Sergeant, Supplementary Report (Feb. 4, 1983) (“Officer Mejia contacted . . . witnesses” who saw a suspect running “behind the Phase III club”);
Bruno Mejia, Corpus Christi Police Officer, Supplementary Report at 3 (Feb. 4, 1983) (Arsuagas “were together in their car driving into the Phase III parking lot at 2632 SPID . . . and they both advised me that they observed a Hispanic male, approximately 5’7” to 5’9”, dark hair, wearing a white long-sleeve shirt untucked and unbuttoned, running across the Phase III parking lot, eastbound, toward the rear of the Lebowitz Furniture Store located at 2660 SPID.”).
See supra notes 92–93 and accompanying text.
See supra note 40–41 and accompanying text.
Transcribed Audiotape Interview with Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, in Jackson, Mich. (Nov. 22, 2004) at 26:57–28:00 (“The girl had already been transported away [in an ambulance] and we were still trying to sort it out, here comes a cop: ‘we found him. Is this the gentleman? He was hiding underneath the car.’”);
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 284 (Baker assents to question whether, “after the police arrived and . . . talked to you all, they got you over there in a group” and “y’all were discussing more or less to the officer what you [Baker] saw, what he [another witness] saw and the officer was trying to put it together”);
Transcribed Audiotape Interview with Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, in Jackson, Mich. (Nov. 22, 2004) at 20:00–21:37, 33:32–34:30 (describing Aguirre’s story of what happened that night, as told to him at the gas station by Aguirre: “The one guy that actually called the police, because he was getting gas supposedly, he saw the guy put a knife in his pocket, paid for his gas, and he told the girl, that there is a guy out in front of your store that just put a knife in his pocket and he went up the street to another pay phone and called. He come back. I remember him coming back and was there. I don’t remember how many of us went down to the police station after all that went down. I know there was at least 2 of us, maybe a third one.”; “Right at the gas station, the one guy had come back [who] made the phone call. He said, I made the phone call, cause he saw a guy put a knife in his pocket, opened it up and put it in his pocket.”);
see supra note 73.
Transcribed Audiotape Interview with Kevan Baker, Eyewitness to Attack on Wanda Lopez, in Jackson, Mich. (Nov. 22, 2004) at 23:00–24:54 (“Did we collaborate or whatever? Yes, we were all together.”);
see 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 45 (describing witnesses’ conversation about whether to take part in the identification);
Eddie McConley, Corpus Christi Police Lieutenant, Pretrial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. June 20, 1983) at 48, 53 (noting that the witnesses were together on the east side of the gas station);
KZTV Channel 10, Feb. 4, 1983 Archive Tape on Wanda Lopez Homicide, Vargas v. Diamond Shamrock, No. 84–4951-D, 86–5900-D (Nueces Cty., 105th Dist. Tex. 1988) at screen shot 2 (reproducing an image of Aguirre and the Arsuagas standing together talking on the southeast corner of the store near the ice machine as medics worked on Wanda Lopez near the door to the Sigmor store);
see supra note 73.
Police Dispatch Tape, Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983) at 8:12:55 (tape at 04:14), 8:13:09 (tape at 00:4:28), 8:13:44 (tape at 00:05:03), 8:13:51 (tape at 00:05:10), 8:16:36 (tape at 00:07:55), 8:18:10 (tape at 00:09:29), 8:21:44 (tape at 00:12:03), 8:22:32 (tape at 00:13:51), 8:29:37 (tape at 00:20:56), 8:32:09 (tape at 00:23:28) (“Hispanic male, wearing a gray sweatshirt.”; “The Hispanic male, gray sweatshirt”; “Additional information: Hispanic man, about 5 foot 9, he’s got a flannel shirt on.”; “about 5–9, should have a flannel shirt and gray sweatshirt”; “Also, witnesses are saying he had a white, untucked T-shirt. I don’t know if it’s another suspect or the same one. Long-sleeved shirt, untucked.”; “Hispanic male, 5–9, gray sweatshirt, flannel shirt. No other information.”; “Gray sweatshirt and a flannel shirt”; “Hispanic male, 5–9, wearing a flannel shirt and gray sweatshirt. . . . May possibly be wearing a white, long-sleeved T-shirt. That’s may possibly be.”; “a white shirt, possibly a white shirt.”; “A Hispanic male, 5–9 with flannel shirt, possibly a gray sweatshirt. It may possibly be a white T-shirt, also, long sleeves. . . .”).
See supra note 144.
See, e.g., Police Dispatch Tape, Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983) at 8:16:36 (tape at 00:07:55), 8:22:32 (tape at 00:13:51), 8:29:37 (tape at 00:20:56) (“Also, witnesses are saying he had a white, untucked T-shirt. I don’t know if it’s another suspect or the same one. Long-sleeved shirt, untucked.”; “Hispanic male, 5–9, wearing a flannel shirt and gray sweatshirt. . . . May possibly be wearing a white, long-sleeved T-shirt. That’s may possibly be.”; “We got some people down at [?] a white shirt, possibly a white shirt.”).
Police Dispatch Tape, Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983) at 8:32:09 (tape at 00:23:28) (“A Hispanic male, 5–9, with flannel shirt, possibly a gray sweatshirt. It may possibly be a white T-shirt, also, long sleeves. Clean-shaven, medium, wavy, ear-length hair.”).