Monday, February 15, 2016

A Mother's Plea: Presidio County Officials Treated Her Daughter Like A "Dead Dog On The Tracks"

A post by a grieving mother, Liz Parker, from 2014 on the Daily Kos paints a terrible picture of indifference, incompetence and corruption in Presidio County, Texas when it comes to death investigations, and it involves the same cast of characters at the center of a big death investigation this past weekend. Yes, this is the same rural, West Texas County where Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead in a luxury resort suite he was staying during a hunting trip to the area this past weekend.

The mother of Melaney Parker's nightmare began on the morning of August 8, 2013. Her daughter had just left her favorite bar in Marfa, Texas around midnight, kissed her new husband on the lips and told him she loved him before heading home for the night. Melaney never made it home that night. Instead, her body was run over by a Union Pacific train where her body was found laying on the tracks at 12:23 a.m. A video taken by the train showed her body to be lifeless as the train approached. A claims representative for Union Pacific told Parker's mother that he had pleaded with the Presidio Justice of the Peace and the Presidio County Sheriff to treat Parker's death as a homicide. Those officials weren't hearing any of it. They had quickly concluded Parker's death was a suicide and they weren't going to be persuaded otherwise.

What Liz Parker learned about the manner in which law enforcement in Presidio County conducted death investigations is more than enough to feed the angst many Americans are feeling about the shoddy investigation local officials there conducted before quickly concluding Justice Scalia died in his sleep of a heart attack. Sheriff Danny Dominguez, who responded to Justice Scalia's death at Cibolo Creek Ranch, made up his mind immediately that Parker's daughter had committed suicide before interviewing any witnesses, awaiting any autopsy or toxicology test results on her body.

A sheriff's deputy turned over Parker's purse and cell phone found 20 yards from where he body was discovered to her mother at the crime scene, not bothering to bag it as evidence. Parker had to find witnesses herself and send them to Sheriff Dominguez' office to be interviewed because he didn't have the time to track down witnesses. Sheriff Dominguez treated Parker and other family members extremely rudely when they tried to get answers from his office. Parker complained that she was tailed by a sheriff's deputy during her time in Marfa, which she had been warned would happen if she asked too many questions.

Parker's mother was lied to by then-Justice of the Peace, Cinderela Guevara, the same judge who ruled Scalia's death the result of natural causes, when she told her that she had ordered an autopsy in the case when in fact no such order had been made by her or anyone else involved in the case. When she confronted Guevara about the lack of evidence pointing to a suicide, Guevara replied to her that she had prayed to God for answers in helping her solve the case. "When she was alone with me, Ms. Guevara asked about my religious beliefs several times," Parker wrote. "We spoke about the Catholic faith and on September 3, 2013, when I met with her, she told me that she had prayed to God for an answer as to whether it was suicide or not and asked God to give her an answer in the video." "She said she did not receive an answer as to that, but she did receive an answer from God." "She stated to me that God told her that, yes this was a tragedy, but the true tragedy was that Melaney had died without accepting Jesus Christ as her savior."

And this is the same Judge Guevara who made a snap decision over the telephone that Justice Scalia died of natural causes from a heart attack without visiting the death scene or gathering any evidence at all. Hold on. It gets better. Parker shared more details about how Presidio County officials react when you ask too many questions:
On October 9th, my son spoke to Rod Ponton (local district attorney). He said Mr. Ponton laughed at him. On October 9th, my son posted on Facebook that he would be performing in a concert at a resort in Mexico. On October 10th, the editor published my letter about Cinderela Guevara's comment that God had told her what the true tragedy was in all of this.
On October 11th, a complaint was filed in federal court by Cinderela Guevara and Rod Ponton stating that my son had threatened to kill them. Ms. Guevara decided my son had told her he was going to kill her children in their last conversations on September 16th, the day I gave my statement to the Sheriff. There were no recordings, just her word. She allegedly made a complaint to the Sheriff, but a copy was never provided or produced, and we can find no record of it being filed. No one else in the courthouse was advised she had received a threat. Most did not know it had happened. I spoke to one courthouse employee who only found out by happenstance two days later that a threat had been made. She was concerned and thought it was strange that her office was not advised. Rod Ponton decided that my son had threatened him also and, sure enough, there were no recordings of the conversation. There was nothing to prove that it had occurred except their word against his.
I do not understand, however, how my son's call came into the District Attorney's office and was transferred to Mr. Ponton by someone else who didn't even ask who was calling. As someone who worked as a secretary for many years, the first thing you do is ask who is calling before you transfer so that you can tell the person receiving the call who it is. On another point, my children identify themselves when they call someone, even if that person knows who is calling. They both did it by habit. I can understand Cinderela Guevara answering her own phone, it is a more informal office, but she also has an assistant who screens calls who told me she was a deputy for the sheriff's office.
When he returned to the U.S. on October 14th, Jesse was detained at the border with a hold by the FBI for Interstate Communication threats. He was held without access or communication for two days and moved around. The same day he spoke to the FBI agents, they believed him and asked that he be released without bond. They said they were sorry but they couldn't help unless there were financial issues going on that could be looked into. It was a local law enforcement issue.
My son, Jesse Joaquin Parker, has had his life thrown inside out because I questioned the authorities in Marfa, Texas. He is a good man, a music teacher for many years, a professional musician, and has taught a class called Transcendental Rhythm, the Yoga of Drumming, blending the three elements most important in his life: teaching, drumming, and spirituality. He would never threaten to hurt anyone. He has no violence in his past, no arrests or complaints about uncontrolled anger issues, no public displays of anger or uncontrolled behavior at all, and domestic violence would never have been tolerated by the strong women he has loved in his life. 
They charged him in federal court in Pecos, Texas, and once again he was detained and had to appear for a bond hearing. He appeared in shackles during the mass of hearings that, in west Texas, are predominantly drug related or immigration arrests. When the judge asked him what level of education he had and he responded, "Masters," the judge paused and looked up from his paperwork. The judge released him on his own recognizance. For some reason, no one really seemed to think he was a threat . . . 
We have no money and no assets, so we had no choice but to ask for a Federal Public Defender as his lawyer. I had worked for the FPD many years before and remembered the lawyers I worked with as dedicated people. I said as much to David Fannin, my son's appointed lawyer. Mr. Fannin never mentioned to my son or any of us that he was a Councilman for the City of Marfa, and Mayor Pro Tem. 
I find it hard to believe an experienced lawyer in his fifties would not come to the conclusion that there could be the appearance of a conflict of interest if we decided the City of Marfa could be a party to a lawsuit by us, because of their contract with the Presidio County Sheriff Department. He did, at one point, tell me and Jesse's father separately that he thought we believed he was part of some conspiracy. We both, separately, denied it. He never contacted any of us either. He seemed to have no interest in my son's case. This seemed to be the kind of case the lawyers I once worked with would jump at, but he would not return my son's phone calls, emails, or messages. We felt helpless. 
He said nothing could be done until the prosecutor complied with Brady requests to produce records that would be used in trial. All records must be produced to defense counsel, whether they support the prosecution's position or not. In late December, the prosecution produced approximately 58 pages of discovery, no recorded proof, and tried to prove their case by showing we were angry because of my letters and the article in the Big Bend Sentinel. 
Jesse realized that if the "victims" were willing to lie to this extent in an affidavit filed in federal court, there would be no end to how they would lie to a jury. The victims were supposed to be upstanding citizens, devout churchgoers, public officials, and who would doubt their word against my son's and mine? This was going to be a conservative West Texas jury, and no one knows what any jury will do. We heard that the prosecution wanted this case over and they offered Jesse a pretrial diversion, where he would sign a plea agreement admitting to the charges that was never entered in court or before a judge. He would successfully serve eighteen months of probation and the charges would be dismissed. If he failed to complete probation, the plea agreement would be entered in court and he would be sentenced to the charges. Accepting the agreement, he could have his passport returned and be able to travel for his musical performances, and start to get on with his life, and somehow complete his grieving for his sister.
Friends offered to lie for him and say they were present during the phone calls. He did not consider their offers because he is an honest man. He will complete probation easily because he is a good man. It is his character to stay out of trouble. He said his attorney sounded relieved when he accepted the plea agreement. Apparently, he wanted to be free of this case also.
As Texans are fond of saying, "Don't mess with Texas." It's sad that most Americans live in a fictional world where they think these sorts of things only happen in other countries. If you were going to choose a corrupt, rural county in America to whack a Supreme Court justice, you couldn't pick any better place than Presidio County, Texas. By the way, Parker notes that Sheriff Dominguez' predecessor, Rick Thompson, was arrested for shipping a ton of cocaine across the U.S.-Mexican border in a horse trailer owned by the sheriff's department. Thompson is serving a life sentence in federal prison.


Anonymous said...

And this is the same Judge Guevara who made a snap decision over the telephone that Justice Scalia died of natural causes from a heart attack without visiting the death scene or gathering any evidence at all.

This Guevara sounds very much like the tin horn career political despots who run Indianapolis: facts are meaningless and process is a problem when a top honcho/honchess wants what he/she wants when he/she wants it.... procedure or law be damned.

Guevara would also fit in perfectly on Indy's overpaid City County Council.

Anonymous said...

It may take Ironsides to solve this one.