HRLR
Los Tocayos Carlos
Chapter 4
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Chapter 4

Crime Scene

After Schauer left with DeLuna, a police officer told store manager Robert Stange and his boss Pete Gonzalez to stay put and wait outside the store.1

Stange had worked the morning shift at the store that day starting at 6:00 a.m., and had turned it over to Wanda at 3:00 p.m.2 Valentine’s Day was coming up, and Stange had joked with Wanda about whether she’d gotten her valentine yet. She hadn’t, she said, so Stange gave her a Tootsie Roll from the display on the counter. Wanda laughed. Stange went home and soon was asleep.3

A few hours later, he awoke to a call from a police operator.4 There was a situation at the Sigmor. He had to go secure the store. The dispatcher wouldn’t say what had happened but offered a police escort. Stange knew it wasn’t good. He drove over fast and met Gonzalez in the parking lot, just as Wanda was being put into an ambulance. No one was allowed inside the store.5

As Stange and Gonzalez waited outside, they couldn’t help but notice the blood—outside on the door and sidewalk, dripping down into the parking lot,6 and more inside that was visible through the plate glass windows. A dense trail of blood drops and bloody prints from Wanda’s narrow bare feet ran diagonally across the fake brick floor tiles from the lift-top opening in the clerk’s counter to a red carpeting mat inside the door.7 The scene was horrifying, and Stange wasn’t looking forward to cleaning it up whenever the police were done looking for evidence.8

* * * * *

Stange had managed the 2602 SPID Sigmor location for a year before Wanda was killed, and he ran it for eight years afterwards. Then he was promoted to auditor, and later “area manager,” of several gas stations.9

In Stange’s line of work, it was common knowledge that a hold-up and a dead body added up to capital murder—the crime at the top of the food chain for cops.10 As Stange waited, he could tell the police thought they’d buttoned up one of those.11 After the squad car carrying the suspect drove off, nearly all of the other police cruisers left as well, and the crowd broke up.12

The female detective and police photographer were the only ones inside the store.13 They’d been there for half an hour and were working fast.14 The detective never even took off her raincoat.15

To Stange, it seemed like police were thinking, “We got a robbery, and now we got a death, so we got a capital case. And we got somebody under an automobile, and an identifier out in the parking lot . . . . We got the guy, and it’s done.”16

For Stange, though, a piece was missing. He couldn’t figure out why the guy had stabbed Wanda.17

Stange liked Wanda. She was always happy, always talking about her young daughter. And she was conscientious in the store—careful and great with the customers.18

image

Figure 7: Wanda Vargas Lopez in high school (left), and within months of her death.

See Transcribed Videotape Interview with Robert Stange, Shamrock Gas Station Manager, in Fredericksburg, Texas (Feb. 24, 2005) at 16:23:37–16:25:40, 17:24:20–17:26:10 (noting that after the squad car with the suspect drove away, Stange and Gonzalez were “still held outside. The police car activity dies down. I don’t believe it was long after that most of the police actually left, the police cars”; recalling that only the two crime scene people were left, and they “were taking a number of pictures” and “doing fingerprints” and that Stange and Gonzalez “were not allowed in[side the store]”; “When the police car left with [the suspect], most of the other cars left. I think there was only one or two police cars in the parking lot, and that was the people [Detective Escobedo and Officer Infante] that kind of escorted us in.”).

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Robert Stange, Shamrock Gas Station Manager, in Fredericksburg, Texas (Feb. 24, 2005) at 17:11:37–17:12:43 (describing how he thought the police were thinking after the identification: “We got a robbery, and now we got a death, so we got a capital case.”).

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Robert Stange, Shamrock Gas Station Manager, in Fredericksburg, Texas (Feb. 24, 2005) at 17:11:37–17:12:43 (describing how he thought the police were thinking after the identification: “We got a robbery, and now we got a death, so we got a capital case.”).

See Transcribed Videotape Interview with Robert Stange, Shamrock Gas Station Manager, in Fredericksburg, Texas (Feb. 24, 2005) at 16:23:37–16:25:40, 17:24:20–17:26:10 (noting that after the squad car with the suspect drove away, Stange and Gonzalez were “still held outside. The police car activity dies down. I don’t believe it was long after that most of the police actually left, the police cars”; recalling that only the two crime scene people were left, and they “were taking a number of pictures” and “doing fingerprints” and that Stange and Gonzalez “were not allowed in[side the store]”; “When the police car left with [the suspect], most of the other cars left. I think there was only one or two police cars in the parking lot, and that was the people [Detective Escobedo and Officer Infante] that kind of escorted us in.”).

Tamara Theiss’s Notes on Interview with Olivia Escobedo, Corpus Christi Police Detective in Wanda Lopez and Dahlia Sauceda Cases (Feb. 27, 2005) at 2:

As the lead investigator, my first responsibility was to secure the crime scene. I think I responded around 7 p.m. [sic] to the scene, and it took me at least three hours [sic] to process everything. I had to do everything myself. Back then, we didn’t have any crime scene technicians or equipment. The responding investigator had to do everything on his or her own. I remember that all we had was a little kit we carried around in the trunks of our cars. We didn’t have any police tape to secure the scenes. We just had to yell at people to stay back and not step on our crime scenes. I think I had the help of a fingerprint technician, but no one else.

See supra Chapter 3, notes 39–46, 56, 129–130 and accompanying text (citing sources establishing that: Detective Escobedo and the photographer entered the store to begin their scene investigation after the ambulance left with Wanda Lopez, because prior to that point the victim and the emergency personnel were blocking the door; the ambulance left the gas station at 8:40; DeLuna was brought to the station in a squad car at about 9:05; and DeLuna was driven away five minutes later); see also Olivia Escobedo, Corpus Christi Police Detective in Wanda Lopez and Dahlia Sauceda Cases, Supplementary Report (Feb. 5, 1983) (reporting that Escobedo and her assistant, Joel Infante, bagged and tagged all the physical evidence confiscated at the scene between 9:25 P.M. and 9:55 P.M);

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Robert Stange, Shamrock Gas Station Manager, in Fredericksburg, Texas (Feb. 24, 2005) at 17:24:20–17:26:10:

When the police car left with him [the suspect], most of the other cars left. I think there was only one or two police cars in the parking lot, and that was the people that kind of escorted us in. And we were asked to go behind the counter and look around and calculate, and we were asked to go back on the other side of the door. It was a very short period of time after that that we were by ourselves [waiting to go back in the store]. So it was relatively quick, the time that the suspect left. Our first entry into the store—I say our first entry, that was when we were escorted in to take a look behind the counter, and we were asked to step back again—that whole time period, from the time that the perpetrator left, or the suspect, that we actually got the keys, it had to be less than 30 minutes. It had to be. Somewhere, maybe around 20. It’s like, “we got the pictures, we got the guy, let’s just get out of here. We’re done.” Everybody’s gone, you stand around like, “Well, now what am I supposed to do?” I remember standing around saying, “Well, what do you want me to do now?”

Tamara Theiss’s Notes on Interview with Olivia Escobedo, Corpus Christi Police Detective in Wanda Lopez and Dahlia Sauceda Cases (Feb. 27, 2005) at 2:

As the lead investigator, my first responsibility was to secure the crime scene. I think I responded around 7 p.m. [sic] to the scene, and it took me at least three hours [sic] to process everything. I had to do everything myself. Back then, we didn’t have any crime scene technicians or equipment. The responding investigator had to do everything on his or her own. I remember that all we had was a little kit we carried around in the trunks of our cars. We didn’t have any police tape to secure the scenes. We just had to yell at people to stay back and not step on our crime scenes. I think I had the help of a fingerprint technician, but no one else.

Crime Scene Photograph 25500019, Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983) (showing Detective Escobedo working inside the store in her overcoat).

See Transcribed Videotape Interview with Robert Stange, Shamrock Gas Station Manager, in Fredericksburg, Texas (Feb. 24, 2005) at 17:11:37–17:12:43:

The police had rounded up somebody who, through witnesses, through people who thought they saw somebody. They got somebody under an automobile. They were sure that this was the man. They had an identifier out in the parking lot, an eyewitness who said that this was the individual or who he believed to be. Pretty much from the time the police left, it was like, “Ok, we got the guy. It’s done. It’s over. We got a robbery, and now we got a death, so we got a capital case. We got the guy, and it’s done.”

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Robert Stange, Shamrock Gas Station Manager, in Fredericksburg, Texas (Feb. 24, 2005) at 17:37:05–17:38:00:

You know, I look back on it now. It was just . . . “Ok, we got this guy, we got one eyewitness that will identify him, that’s good enough.” . . . They found some guy hiding underneath a car. This is him. We got him, case is closed. As a detective, I am sure this is the guy. I’m not looking any further, I’m not looking into this. . . . I know I’ve got him. I know I’ve got my man, I don’t need to go anywhere else. That’s what it looks like. It looks like we just, we zeroed in on one path and everything that went this way, we never looked at it.

Lead Detective Escobedo acknowledged later that she had used her police radio to follow events outside the store, including the manhunt and capture of DeLuna and his identification by eyewitnesses. See Olivia Escobedo, Corpus Christi Police Detective in Wanda Lopez and Dahlia Sauceda Cases, Supplementary Report (Feb. 5, 1983) at 3 (“While still at the [Sigmor station] scene, I learned from Lt. McConley that a suspect had been apprehended and he was brought back to the scene where he was viewed separately by several [sic—two] witnesses who were able to ID the subject. After positive ID was made, suspect who was identified as Carlos DeLuna, 3/15/62 . . . was then transported to City Jail.”);

Tamara Theiss’s Notes on Interview with Olivia Escobedo, Corpus Christi Police Detective in Wanda Lopez and Dahlia Sauceda Cases (Feb. 27, 2005) at 2:

Because my responsibility was to process the crime scene, I remained in the store working while the rest of the police were outside looking for DeLuna. I remember that there were police cars everywhere, at the station and all around the neighborhood around the station, looking for DeLuna. I could hear their progress on my radio. The police were responding to calls saying that people had spotted someone hiding under a truck that was parked on the street a couple blocks behind the gas station. Then I heard on the radio when DeLuna was pulled out from under the truck. I think that the police brought DeLuna back to the gas station right away so the witnesses could look at him. DeLuna was sober when they found him. He did not have any blood on him. I did not take part in the identification of DeLuna by the witnesses because I was inside the station working on the crime scene.

See infra notes 35, 46, 82–85, 107–110 and accompanying text.

See Transcribed Videotape Interview with Robert Stange, Shamrock Gas Station Manager, in Fredericksburg, Texas (Feb. 24, 2005) at 15:22:06–15:22:45, 17:20:00–17:20:42, 17:22:12–17:22:35 (“Wanda, she was always happy. It was all about her daughter.”; “She was relatively new to me, but we got along very well and I liked her. She was good. She was good with the customers, she cared about what she did. Very conscientious.”; “[Wanda’s relationship with her daughter] was very good. It was the thing that drove her, that made her want to— She wanted a better life for her daughter than she’d gotten at that point. It was all about her daughter.”);

see also Transcribed Videotape Interview with Becky Nesmith, Cousin of Wanda Lopez in Corpus Christi, Texas (Dec. 8, 2004) at 05:07:01–05:07:50 (“A. Wanda, she was a very kind friend to me. Even though she was my cousin, she was very real, very down to earth. She had a very happy spirit. She was never mean. She wasn’t the type to cuss. She didn’t have a vulgar language. She was very loving, very friendly, very outgoing. Q. One of the things that we’ve heard about Wanda is that she was, as you say, very outgoing. Liked to be around people. Very vibrant and bright. Is that right? A. Yes.”).

See Crime Scene Photograph 25500024, Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983) (photo of front door of Sigmor station, showing opening time of 6 a.m.);

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Robert Stange, Shamrock Gas Station Manager, in Fredericksburg, Texas (Feb. 24, 2005) at 15:27:50–15:29:10;

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Robert Stange, Shamrock Gas Station Manager, in Fredericksburg, Texas (Feb. 24, 2005) at 17:23:20–17:24:00:

As far as that evening, that day, I can remember leaving the location somewhere in mid to late afternoon. We had a display of Tootsie Rolls. Inside that there was a cardboard backing of a heart, and it was filled with Tootsie Rolls. It sold for ninety-nine or a dollar forty-nine. We joked about Valentine’s Day coming up, and she hadn’t gotten her Valentines present. So I handed her one of those and said, “Well, there you go.” That was pretty much my day at that point, I was done at that point, and I went on home. My day started pretty early . . . . I’m sure I was tired, because I know when I got the call I was already asleep.

See Transcribed Videotape Interview with Robert Stange, Shamrock Gas Station Manager, in Fredericksburg, Texas (Feb. 24, 2005) at 15:27:50–15:29:10;

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Robert Stange, Shamrock Gas Station Manager, in Fredericksburg, Texas (Feb. 24, 2005) at 17:23:20–17:24:00:

As far as that evening, that day, I can remember leaving the location somewhere in mid to late afternoon. We had a display of Tootsie Rolls. Inside that there was a cardboard backing of a heart, and it was filled with Tootsie Rolls. It sold for ninety-nine or a dollar forty-nine. We joked about Valentine’s Day coming up, and she hadn’t gotten her Valentines present. So I handed her one of those and said, “Well, there you go.” That was pretty much my day at that point, I was done at that point, and I went on home. My day started pretty early . . . . I’m sure I was tired, because I know when I got the call I was already asleep.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Robert Stange, Shamrock Gas Station Manager, in Fredericksburg, Texas (Feb. 24, 2005) at 15:29:10–15:29:50 (“I just remember it was dark when I got to the location. I remember the dispatcher calling me and telling me there had been an incident at the store, and I needed to come down and secure the location. They wouldn’t tell me what it was about. They wanted to know what direction I was coming from in case they could give me an escort. I knew that wasn’t good. I didn’t know what had happened, but I knew that wasn’t good.”).

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Robert Stange, Shamrock Gas Station Manager, in Fredericksburg, Texas (Feb. 24, 2005) at 15:29:10–15:29:50 (“I just remember it was dark when I got to the location. I remember the dispatcher calling me and telling me there had been an incident at the store, and I needed to come down and secure the location. They wouldn’t tell me what it was about. They wanted to know what direction I was coming from in case they could give me an escort. I knew that wasn’t good. I didn’t know what had happened, but I knew that wasn’t good.”).

See Crime Scene Photograph 25500024, Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983);

Crime Scene Photograph 25500029, Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983);

Crime Scene Photograph 25500035, Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983).

Crime Scene Photograph 25500003, Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983);

Crime Scene Photograph 25500004, Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983);

Crime Scene Photograph 25500012, Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983);

Crime Scene Photograph 25500014, Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983);

Crime Scene Photograph 25500021, Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983).

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Robert Stange, Shamrock Gas Station Manager, in Fredericksburg, Texas (Feb. 24, 2005) at 16:54:30–16:55:40, 16:58:45–16:59:27 (“There was a considerable amount of blood, because I do recall having to clean it up and wipe everything that had blood on it.”; answering question about who cleaned up the station: “I did. Myself and another manager, Joyce Winkler, the store manager where I came from, number 126. . . . [It was a] high-visibility store right along the interstate, so anybody going by on a Friday night saw it. Somehow she was notified. She not only helped clean up, but she also helped do the physical inventory of the location later on.”);

Steve Mills & Maurice Possley, The Secret that Wasn’t: Violent Felon Bragged that He Was Real Killer, Chi. Trib., June 27, 2006, available at http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2006-06-27/news/0606270137_1_gas-station-stabbed-killing/3 (“Stange, who said he was never interviewed by police, prosecutors or defense lawyers, worked the day shift at the station before Lopez. In a recent interview, he said he was called back that night after the murder to clean up the blood and conduct the inventory.”);

see also Crime Scene Photograph 25500024, Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983) (showing store hours and opening time of 6 a.m. on Saturday);

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Robert Stange, Shamrock Gas Station Manager, in Fredericksburg, Texas (Feb. 24, 2005) at 16:59:27–17:01:30 (recalling that, as a result of cleaning and conducting and inventory, “it was a very short night. It was only about an hour’s worth of rest I got” before returning to open up the store at the usual time);

Tamara Theiss’s Notes on Interview with Olivia Escobedo, Corpus Christi Police Detective in Wanda Lopez and Dahlia Sauceda Cases (Feb. 27, 2005) at 2 (“I remember coming into the gas station. Ms. Lopez was already being treated by the emergency response people. She couldn’t talk to anyone. She had been stabbed over and over again [sic—there was only one stab wound]. I remember that there was blood everywhere inside the gas station.”).

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Robert Stange, Shamrock Gas Station Manager, in Fredericksburg, Texas (Feb. 24, 2005) at 15:16:34–15:18:12 (noting that Stange worked as manager at the SPID station from 1982 to 1991, then spent four to five years as a auditor for a number of stations, then worked several years as area manager for nine stores:

Q. [Take me] through the locations you worked at, giving the addresses. You say you started and Weber . . . .

A. Weber and S.P.I.D. And we referred to the locations by store name. That was store number 146. That’s where I started. And then I was to go in and fill in at another location while a manager was on maternity leave, with the possibility of taking over if things went well. And that was number 47, and that was at Ayres and S.P.I.D., ultimately this particular location where Wanda Lopez was killed. I stayed there until ’91, and I got a transfer to a location in Portland, Texas, the store number was 979. It was a larger-volume store, so it was [a] promotion. I did that for 2 years. In ’93 I got promoted to an auditing job, where you travel around and you count each store. You go in and you do a store each day, and you take a physical inventory. We have in-house auditors, and I did that for them for 4 years, 5 years. And then ultimately became an area manager of nine locations, which didn’t include the location where she was killed. That was given to another area manager at the time.”).

Chapter 4
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