HRLR
Los Tocayos Carlos
Chapter 5
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Chapter 5

Suspect

Not long after Carlos DeLuna’s arrest for capital murder, his mother, Maria Margarita Martinez, took sick. According to her daughters, she’d always been a healthy woman, but her youngest son’s arrest brought on kidney problems and other complications.1 They operated on her three times.2 Two weeks before Carlos’s trial was set to begin, heart problems developed, and she went into intensive care.3

Margarita was supposed to be Carlos’s star witness, but the judge wouldn’t postpone the trial until she was well enough to testify.4 Margarita clung to life while the trial went on, with her daughters shuttling back and forth between the hospital and courthouse.5 She died two weeks after the trial ended, at age sixty-one.6

Margarita had ten children, the first born when she was only thirteen.7 According to family lore, she left the father of her first six children, Francisco Conejo, after she couldn’t take the beatings anymore.8 At the time, Becky, the youngest of the six, was just a baby.9

In the 1950s, Margarita moved her family from San Antonio to the La Armada housing project in Corpus Christi.10 Her children remember the “Mexican projects” as not so bad back then. Everyone was poor, but they didn’t know any better and were thankful for a place to live.11 The government kicked in part of the rent and sent Margarita a check once a month for groceries and school clothes.12 The older children remember her working hard to raise them herself and be “like a mother and dad to all of us.”13

After moving to Corpus, Margarita started seeing Joe DeLuna. Joe made a decent living hauling scrap metal to Mexico and selling it. Within a few years, they had three children together—Manuel in 1961, Carlos on the Ides of March in 1962 and Rose in 1963.14 Joe and Margarita never married, and Joe carried on a relationship with another woman that produced three sons.15 He left Margarita when she was pregnant with Rose.16

Rose is the family historian. In a conversation at a north Houston McDonald’s in 2004, and in several that followed, she shared what she knew with the investigators looking into her brother Carlos’s case.

According to the stories Rose heard,17 her mother first caught the eye of the much younger Joe DeLuna in a bar soon after moving to Corpus Christi.18 From then on, she hid her age from Joe. He walked out for good, the story goes, when he found out that she’d lied to him—that she had six kids by Conejo, not the four still at home. The two eldest boys were already grown.19

Rose heard that her father Joe was a “momma’s boy,”20 and that his momma thought he was too good for Margarita.21 The older siblings remembered Margarita and Joe fighting all the time.22

Rose, short for Rosemary, was named after her grandmother Rose DeLuna and her mother Maria Margarita.23 She never met her grandmother and namesake, though, or her father.24 She heard that Carlos once went over to their grandmother Rose’s house looking for his dad, but the old lady sent him away.25 She didn’t want to have anything to do with her grandson or any of Joe’s other children by Margarita, and Joe never did either.26

None of the Conejo or DeLuna kids knew the father of Margarita’s tenth child, or the baby boy himself. “She gave him away,” Rose told the investigators. “So I never met . . . that brother. [But] she did keep us three.”27

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Vicky Gutierrez, Half-Sister of Carlos DeLuna, in Garland, Texas (Feb. 27, 2005) at 00:20:51–00:21:30 (“My mother, she was a real healthy woman. She would work, take care of us. After the incident of Carlos DeLuna, she just went downhill. She got sick. She had to go to the hospital. They operated on her three times. Then she died. She died after all that.”).

Pre-Disposition Investigation for Carlos DeLuna, Al R. Reyna, Intake Coordinator, Probation Dep’t (June 27, 1978) at 3 (“Carlos’s mother was first married to a Francisco Conejo . . . . They were divorced in April, 1951”);

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Rose Rhoton, Sister of Carlos DeLuna, in Houston, Tex. (Feb. 26, 2005) at 19:51:29–19:52:42, 19:44:14–19:45:15 (“And then my mom left, left wherever she lived. I’m not quite sure where she lived. And she moved to San Antonio, Tex., and then from San Antonio, Texas, she moved to Corpus Christi, Texas.”; “And we lived in the projects in Corpus Christi, Tex.. Which is called the ‘Armada’ that’s what it’s called in Corpus.”);

History of Corpus Christi Housing Authority, Corpus Christi Housing Authority Website, http://www.hacc.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=81&Itemid=28 (last visited Feb. 28, 2012) (describing the Armada projects, which were originally built during World War II as military housing, then were converted to low-income housing after the War).

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Rose Rhoton, Sister of Carlos DeLuna, in Houston, Tex. (Feb. 26, 2005) at 19:50:18–19:51:05:

It was a project, it was a project. It wasn’t, it wasn’t a bad place. There again, when you’re kids, you don’t know any better. That’s where you’re brought up, so all the kids just hung out. All the kids that lived there were poor kids. We were all poor kids, so we didn’t know any better. So that was just our lifestyle. I mean either that or . . . we couldn’t live anywhere else but there. That’s all our parents could afford and we were thankful enough to have a place to live. So it was, we didn’t know any better.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Rose Rhoton, Sister of Carlos DeLuna, in Houston, Tex. (Feb. 26, 2005) at 19:49:37–19:50:15:

My mom was able to get help from the government, which they sent her a check, I believe, once a month. And she received funds from there, and with those funds she was able to buy school clothes when needed and as far as food and stuff like that. Of course, my step dad would pay for the groceries. And like I said we lived in the government apartments, so the rent there was maybe a hundred. They had to pay a hundred dollars a month and the government kicked in the rest.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Vicky Gutierrez, Half-Sister of Carlos DeLuna, in Garland, Texas (Feb. 27, 2005) at 00:02:00–00:03:49, 00:05:54–00:06:30 (“[M]y mother . . . was like a mother and dad to all of us. She would work and, you know, do whatever she did to be able to take care of us.”; “We worked to help my mother, because, like I told you, my mother was like a dad and a mom.”).

Juvenile Face Sheet for Carlos DeLuna, Probation Dep’t, Family Record No. 7147 (Feb. 28, 1978) at 2.

Pre-Disposition Investigation for Carlos DeLuna, Al R. Reyna, Intake Coordinator, Probation Dep’t (June 27, 1978), at 3 (“In 1960 [Margarita] had a commonlaw marriage with Carlos’ father, Jose De Peña [sic]; they separated in 1963. Three children resulted from this union.”);

Susan Montez’s Notes on Interview with Mary Arredando, Half-Sister of Carlos DeLuna (July 26, 2004) at 2. (“Mary remembered Joe DeLuna as “nice, okay.” He worked in a scrap metal yard in Corpus Christi, and he would haul scrap metal to Mexico and sell it. Carlos resembled Joe DeLuna. In addition to the three children he had with Margarita (Manuel, Carlos and Rose), Joe fathered three sons with someone else. Mary said the children were brought together at times, but the three boys lived with their grandmother, Joe’s mother, who raised them.”);

Susan Montez’s Notes on Interview with Toni Peña, Half-Sister of Carlos DeLuna (July 25, 2004) at 2 (“Toni thought her mother must have been on her own, after her divorce, for over 10 years. That was from 1947 or 1948 until 1961, when she began living with Joe DeLuna.”).

Susan Montez’s Notes on Interview with Rose Rhoton, Sister of Carlos DeLuna (July 19, 2004) at 3 (“Joe left Margarita when she was pregnant with Rose. Joe and Margarita were not married, but Manuel, Carlos and Rose all used his name.”);

see also Susan Montez’s Notes on Interview with Mary Arredando, Half-Sister of Carlos DeLuna (July 26, 2004) at 2 (“Joe left . . .[,] possibly when Margarita was still pregnant with Rose.”).

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Rose Rhoton, Sister of Carlos DeLuna, in Houston, Tex. (Feb. 26, 2005) at 19:52:42–19:54:26 (describing the family “story told” and the family “stories that I’ve heard”).

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Rose Rhoton, Sister of Carlos DeLuna, in Houston, Tex. (Feb. 26, 2005) at 19:52:42–19:54:26 (“She [Margarita] already had six kids, so when she moved to Corpus Christi, Tex., she met my dad. And my dad was younger than my mother. These are the stories that I’ve heard.”).

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Rose Rhoton, Sister of Carlos DeLuna, in Houston, Tex. (Feb. 26, 2005) at 19:52:42–19:54:26:

She [Margarita] already had six kids, so when she moved to Corpus Christi, Tex., she met my dad. And my dad was younger than my mother. These are the stories that I’ve heard. And she did not tell my dad. My dad’s name is Joe. She did not tell my dad that she had six kids. She told him, she only had four kids. So that’s pretty much where the issue came, the problems came. And then he found out that she had six kids, so he left her.

See Transcribed Videotape Interview with Karen Boudrie-Evers, Corpus Christi Television Reporter, in Dallas, Texas (Feb. 28, 2005) at 03:24:20–03:25:12 (reading from a letter written to the her by Carlos DeLuna written in early December 1989: “‘I will go ahead and tell you a little bit about my childhood. Maybe you will be able to understand me a little more. I grew up in a big family. There were nine of us. My real father left when I was only an infant, about five or six months old, and my mother brought us up.’”).

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Vicky Gutierrez, Half-Sister of Carlos DeLuna, in Garland, Texas (Feb. 27, 2005) at 00:20:51–00:21:30 (“My mother, she was a real healthy woman. She would work, take care of us. After the incident of Carlos DeLuna, she just went downhill. She got sick. She had to go to the hospital. They operated on her three times. Then she died. She died after all that.”);

Susan Montez’s Notes on Interview with Mary Arredando, Half-Sister of Carlos DeLuna (July 26, 2004) at 4 (“Margarita went into the hospital. She had surgery, and there were lots of complications.”);

Susan Montez’s Notes on Interview with Rose Rhoton, Sister of Carlos DeLuna (July 19, 2004) at 6 (“Margarita suffered from kidney problems. When Carlos went to trial, she wound up in the hospital. The trial did her in . . . . She died on August 11, 1983, soon after her 61st birthday.”).

Susan Montez’s Notes on Interview with Mary Arredando, Half-Sister of Carlos DeLuna (July 26, 2004) at 2 (“Joe’s mother did not care for Margarita or any of her children. Mary remembered Margarita and Joe constantly fighting. When Margarita was mad at him, she wouldn’t cook for him. Mary would make him a sandwich because she felt bad for him.”);

Susan Montez’s Notes on Interview with Rose Rhoton, Sister of Carlos DeLuna (July 19, 2004) at 2–4 (“After divorcing Conejo, Margarita began a relationship with Joe DeLuna. Joe was younger than Margarita by 7 or 8 years, and a ‘real momma’s boy.’ His mother was completely against the relationship and constantly nagged Joe to leave Margarita.”).

Susan Montez’s Notes on Interview with Rose Rhoton, Sister of Carlos DeLuna (July 19, 2004) at 2–4 (“After divorcing Conejo, Margarita began a relationship with Joe DeLuna. Joe was younger than Margarita by 7 or 8 years, and a ‘real momma’s boy.’ His mother was completely against the relationship and constantly nagged Joe to leave Margarita.”).

Susan Montez’s Notes on Interview with Mary Arredando, Half-Sister of Carlos DeLuna (July 26, 2004) at 2 (noting that Mary remembered Margarita and Joe constantly fighting. When Margarita was mad at him, she wouldn’t cook for him. Mary would make him a sandwich because she felt bad for him.).

Susan Montez’s Notes on Interview with Mary Arredando, Half-Sister of Carlos DeLuna (July 26, 2004) at 2 (“Rose was named Rose for Joe’s mother and Mary for [her own mother Maria (Mary)] Margarita.”).

Susan Montez’s Notes on Interview with Rose Rhoton, Sister of Carlos DeLuna (July 19, 2004) at 3–4 (“Joe and Margarita were not married but Manuel, Carlos and Rose all used his name. . . . Rose never knew or saw Joe DeLuna. According to Rose’s older sister Toni, Carlos once went to meet Joe’s mother. She did not want to have anything to do with him, and did not want her son Joe to have anything to do with Carlos, Rose or Manuel.”).

Susan Montez’s Notes on Interview with Rose Rhoton, Sister of Carlos DeLuna (July 19, 2004) at 3–4.

Susan Montez’s Notes on Interview with Rose Rhoton, Sister of Carlos DeLuna (July 19, 2004) at 3–4 (“[Joe’s] mother was completely against the relationship and constantly nagged Joe to leave Margarita. . . . Joe left Margarita when she was pregnant with Rose. . . . She did not want to have anything to do with [Carlos], and did not want her son Joe to have anything to do with Carlos, Rose or Manuel.”).

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Rose Rhoton, Sister of Carlos DeLuna, in Houston, Tex. (Feb. 26, 2005) at 19:52:42–19:56:31:

And before [Margarita] met my step-dad, she had another baby, I don’t know that baby’s name. That’s why I say she has ten kids. That baby happened to be a boy, and she gave him away. She gave him up for adoption. That’s the story told. So I’ve never met that sibling, that brother, so we don’t know anything about him. So she did keep us three and that’s when she met my step-dad [Blas Avalos] . . . . I think she met my step dad, I must have been, I know I wasn’t in kindergarten yet. I must have been four or maybe as young as three and a half or maybe five when he came into the picture.

See also Transcribed Videotape Interview with Vicky Gutierrez, Half-Sister of Carlos DeLuna, in Garland, Texas (Feb. 27, 2005) at 00:02:00–00:03:49, 00:10:00–00:10:35 (“From my first dad we were six, then from my second, step-dad there were three, which is Rosemary and Carlos and Manuel.”; “There was my father, I can’t remember him, because they separated when I was real young. Then DeLuna, which is the father of my brothers, which is Manual, Rosemary, and Carlos. Then Avalos after I was already grown up and married.”).

Oral Argument on June 20, 1983 Motion for Continuance, Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. June 20, 1983) at 2, 3, 5 (“[Defense Counsel James] Lawrence: To further enlighten the Court, she [Margarita Martinez] underwent an operation, she had complications, she had a heart attack, I believe, on Thursday. . . [S]he’s now in Intensive Care.”; “[Prosecutor Ken] Botary: It was not a heart attack, per se, it was a heart-related problem. She had surgery some time ago.”).

Criminal Docket, Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. Feb. 17, 1983) at 3;

Oral Argument on June 20, 1983 Motion for Continuance, Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. June 20, 1983) at 99.

The Court denied Defendant’s Second Motion for a Continuance, but reset the trial from June 20 to July 5, 1983 at the request of the defense. See Oral Argument on June 20, 1983 Motion for Continuance, Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. June 20, 1983) at 99.

Susan Montez’s Notes on Interview with Mary Arredando, Half-Sister of Carlos DeLuna (July 26, 2004) at 4:

Margarita went into the hospital. She had surgery, and there were lots of complications. Mary was with her every morning, then went to the trial, then went back to the hospital. Mary’s three boys had been receiving Robert’s [her deceased husband’s] social security since he was killed in 1976, and they lived on that while the trial was going on. At the time, Toni [Mary’s older sister] was working at Minyard’s, a market like Albertson’s. When she got off work she would go to the hospital so that Mary could be with her boys. [Mary’s sister] Vicky came to the hospital as well.

Carlos’s trial ended on July 21, 1983. Criminal Docket, Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. Feb. 17, 1983) at 9.

Carlos’s mother died on August 11, 1983. See Susan Montez’s Notes on Interview with Rose Rhoton, Sister of Carlos DeLuna (July 19, 2004) at 6 (“Margarita suffered from kidney problems. When Carlos went to trial, she wound up in the hospital. The trial did her in. . . . She died on August 11, 1983, soon after her 61st birthday.”).

Pre-Disposition Investigation for Carlos DeLuna, Al R. Reyna, Intake Coordinator, Probation Dep’t (June 27, 1978) at 2;

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Rose Rhoton, Sister of Carlos DeLuna, in Houston, Tex. (Feb. 26, 2005) at 19:52:42–19:54:26 (“And before she met my step-dad, she had another baby, I don’t know that baby’s name. That’s why I say she has ten kids. That baby happened to be a boy, and she gave him away. She gave him up for adoption.”);

see Transcribed Videotape Interview with Karen Boudrie-Evers, Corpus Christi Television Reporter, in Dallas, Texas (Feb. 28, 2005) at 03:24:20–03:26:03 (reading from a letter written to her by Carlos DeLuna written in early December 1989):

I will go ahead and tell you a little bit about my childhood. Maybe you will be able to understand me a little more. I grew up in a big family. There were nine of us. My real father left when I was only an infant, about five or six months old, and my mother brought us up. I think I was about five or six years old when she married my stepfather. He was a good man but he was an alcoholic. He drank a whole lot. But he always did support us, and he was a good person. But he never really cared, I guess, a whole lot about us. My mother, she was 40 years old when she had me. And she was old, and I guess she was tired of raising kids. But she did try her best. I can’t take anything from her. But one of my sisters does blame my mother. I don’t know why, but she does. I grew up in a poor neighborhood, and we were poor in many ways, but I’d still never gotten in any trouble, yet, with the Law. I think I was 15 years old when I first got in trouble with the Law. I was going out with this girl who was about two years older than me, and she had already been in trouble with the Law before. But I truly did love her, or I thought I did. So you know how that goes, when they say “love is blind,” I do honestly believe that. But I met her brother and his friends, and that’s where all the trouble started.

Juvenile Face Sheet for Carlos DeLuna, Probation Dep’t, Family Record No. 7147 (Feb. 28, 1978) at 2 (listing Margarita’s six Conejo children and three DeLuna children);

Pre-Disposition Investigation for Carlos DeLuna, Al R. Reyna, Intake Coordinator, Probation Dep’t (June 27, 1978) at 3 (“Carlos’ mother was first married to a Francisco Conejo but she does not remember the date of the marriage. They were divorced in April, 1951, and six children resulted from this union.”);

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Vicky Gutierrez, Half-Sister of Carlos DeLuna, in Garland, Texas (Feb. 27, 2005) at 00:10:00–00:10:35 (“There was my father, I can’t remember him, because they separated when I was real young.”);

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Rose Rhoton, Sister of Carlos DeLuna, in Houston, Tex. (Feb. 26, 2005) at 19:51:29–19:52:42 (“[M]y mom was married at age 13, and she had her first six kids. . . . [H]er husband that she was married to, what I’ve heard, was very abusive to her.”);

Susan Montez’s Notes on Interview with Toni Peña, Half-Sister of Carlos DeLuna (July 25, 2004) at 1–2:

Toni’s father, who was the father of “the six” (Margarita’s first six children), was Francisco Conejo. He was born in Mexico, but Toni did not know where or what year he was born. He worked in construction. Margarita, Toni’s mother, and mother of all the Conejo and DeLuna children, was born on August 1, 1922 in Aransas Pass, Texas. Toni does not know where or when Margarita and Francisco got married. Toni was the second child, born on January 6, 1944. Toni remembered she was three or four years old when her parents divorced. Margarita was pregnant with Becky, the youngest of the six. Toni remembered that Francisco. . . was abusive to Margarita.

Susan Montez’s Notes on Interview with Toni Peña, Half-Sister of Carlos DeLuna (July 25, 2004), at 1–2.

Chapter 5
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