Everything is bigger in Texas... and crime is no exception.
From frontier lawlessness to modern mayhem, the state’s history has piqued curiosity around the world in some part due to its tales of wrongdoing—and the often titillating media attention that inevitably follows. True crime may boast a current surge in popularity, but public interest in the subject is nothing new. As local stories make international headlines, however, one begins to wonder when reporting becomes storytelling and storytelling becomes sensationalism.
What follows are 10 singular tales of murder, scandal, and tragedy set in the Lone Star State. All are crimes with victims deserving of respectful consideration. The selection of cases represents the range of the Archive’s film and video collection and how such materials capture aberrant behavior more so than a particular crime's importance. We seek not to sensationalize these events but rather use them to examine the compelling and often contentious intersections between true crime and media.
Combining local television coverage with newsreels, government films, home movies, and more, TRUE CRIME TALES not only uncovers the facts of each crime but also highlights the processes of police investigation and the criminal justice system. Featuring multiple cases of past police misconduct, the exhibit also considers questions of law enforcement accountability and community relations. In every instance, TRUE CRIME TALES explores how Texans produce and consume crime stories. What cases capture our attention and how do crimes become legends?
The story of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow began when the couple met in Dallas in 1930. By that time, Barrow boasted a lengthy rap sheet, spanning from petty theft to armed robbery. Just a few months after the couple’s first encounter, authorities arrested Barrow for auto theft and sent him to Eastham Prison Farm in Houston County. There he committed his first murder, bludgeoning a fellow inmate who had habitually abused him. Paroled in February 1932, Barrow reunited with Parker and assembled an eclectic group of criminal associates. The so-called “Barrow Gang” then embarked on a two-year crime spree—robbing small banks, stores, and gas stations, and killing any civilians or law enforcement officials that stood in their way. By 1934, authorities considered the outlaws responsible for as many as 13 deaths. The manhunt for Parker and Barrow came to an end in Bienville Parish, Louisiana, on May 23, 1934, when a posse of four Texas officers and two Louisiana officers ambushed and opened fire on the couple. Both died at the scene.
|Texas Ranger Frank Hamer began tracking the crime duo in February 1934. He caught up with the pair three months later. On the morning of May 23, Hamer and five other officers from Texas and Louisiana concealed themselves in the bushes along the highway near Sailes, Louisiana. When Parker and Barrow stopped to help the father of their associate, Henry Methvin, who was working in cooperation with authorities, the posse unleashed a hail of bullets. This grisly footage captures the aftermath of the shootout.
|Produced by the Dallas-based Jamieson Film Company, this short film combines dramatic reenactments with actual footage to chronicle the infamous couple's rise and fall. Like much of the media coverage at the time, this film takes liberties with the details of their crimes. Among other inaccuracies, the narrator falsely identifies Parker as the shooter of highway patrolman H. D. Murphy. Nevertheless, the film also includes scenes of the aftermath of the shootout with police as well as the couple’s funerals in Dallas.
Barrow and Parker achieved national notoriety long before their demise. Photographs of the good-looking couple found in their Missouri hideout in 1933 were published by the press, which glamorized their life of crime. In death, however, the outlaws’ lethal legacy became cultural legend. More than 20,000 people attended Parker’s Dallas funeral. The sensational and romanticized story of Bonnie and Clyde spawned numerous retellings, including two Hollywood films. Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (1967), starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, filmed on location across North Central Texas.
|Bonnie and Clyde (1967) filmed on location all over North Central Texas, with the region playing such a significant role in the film’s production that Denton hosted its Southwest premiere. This silent home movie provides a behind-the-scenes glimpse of filming in Venus. Locals explore the 1930s set pieces while stars Dunaway and Beatty perform an early scene outside a storefront.
On February 6, 1961, Carolyn Lima and Leslie Elaine Perez (then known as Leslie Douglas Ashley) arrived at the Houston office of realtor Fred Tones for a prearranged sexual encounter. Authorities discovered Tones’ body later that night. He had been fatally shot six times and then burned. Lima and Perez evaded police for three weeks, driving Tones’ Lincoln to Galveston and New Orleans before the FBI found them in New York City. The “Beatnik Killers”—as they were referred to by the
|In this KHOU segment, newsman Mark Hepler reports from the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville about the planned executions of Lima and Perez. The pair was scheduled to die just after midnight that night, March 29, 1963. Hepler then speaks with Jack Hurd, assistant director of the state prison system, on how the unit prepares to receive a possible stay of execution order.
Federal Circuit Judge John R. Brown issued stays of execution on March 29, 1963, just four hours before the pair were scheduled to die. The US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals later ruled that the prosecution had suppressed evidence favorable to the pair, and ordered new trials for both defendants. Lima was subsequently sentenced to five years in prison, while Perez was declared insane and sent to a mental hospital in San Antonio.
|Lima's second murder trial began on February 17, 1964. Harris County District Attorney Frank Briscoe led the prosecution. Defense attorney Clyde Woody headed the defense. Criminal District Judge Miron A. Love presided. After four hours of deliberation, the jury found her guilty of murder without malice. Woody moved to credit his client for the three years she had already served. Judge Love ruled in Lima's favor, ordering her five-year sentence effective as of March 3, 1961—the date of the original murder charge. Lima was released on April 3, 1965, with additional time off for good behavior.
|The couple first met at a Houston gay bar, where Perez frequently performed in drag as the Amazing Dynamite Renee "Cookie" Lamonte. Reflecting the views and language of the time, the press labeled her a "female impersonator." Before the retrial, Perez's attorneys used moral objections to the reported cross-dressing as the foundation for an insanity defense. This silent KPRC footage captures the resulting hearing at the Wharton County Courthouse on May 11, 1964. Siding with the defendant, the court delayed the second murder trial and sent Perez to a mental hospital for treatment.
Perez escaped the facility on October 6, 1964, prompting the FBI to add her name to its list of Ten Most Wanted Fugitives. Agents took Perez into custody in Atlanta, Georgia, six months later. At the time, she was working as a clown for a traveling carnival. Following her extradition to Texas, she was tried again for Tones’ murder and sentenced to 15 years, serving five. Perez came out as transgender 10 years after her release. She devoted herself to political activism, founding the Houston chapter of ACT UP in 1988. Two years later, Perez made the first of three unsuccessful runs for Harris County Democratic Party chair. She died in 2005.
DEADLY LOVE AFFAIR
In the early morning hours of June 30, 1964, Houston socialite Candace “Candy” Mossler entered her estranged husband’s apartment to find him stabbed and bludgeoned to death. Jacques Mossler, the head of a $33-million banking and loan empire, had earlier moved out of the couple’s River Oaks mansion to live in Key Biscayne, Florida. While Candy had a solid alibi, her nephew and suspected lover, Melvin Lane Powers, did not. Harris County sheriff’s deputies caught up with Powers in Houston three days later, arresting him for first-degree murder. A year later, Dade County officials in Florida similarly charged Candy.
|The Harris County Sheriff's Department took Powers into custody on July 3, 1964. The next day, authorities booked him into jail and formally charged him with first-degree murder. The first segment in this silent KPRC footage sees Powers' defense attorney, Percy Foreman, arriving at the Harris County jail on July 4 to confer with his client. The second shows a bond hearing for Powers on July 6. District Judge Sam Davis ruled the defendant be held without bond pending his extradition to Florida.
|On July 20, 1965, a Miami grand jury indicted both Powers and Mossler on charges of first-degree murder. This silent KPRC segment captures a preliminary hearing at the Dade County Courthouse six days later, during which the defendants pleaded not guilty. (The case was evidently so sensational that KPRC sent a camera crew to Florida when the case moved from Houston to Miami.) State's Attorney Richard Gerstein tried the case himself, risking his perfect record as a prosecutor.
The Mossler-Powers trial began in Miami on January 17, 1966. The prosecution argued that the couple murdered Jacques to acquire his multi-million-dollar fortune. Between Candy’s platinum-blonde glamour, her controversial relationship with her co-defendant, and the courtroom dramatics provided by defense attorney Percy Foreman, the trial became a media sensation. Court proceedings were so sordid that the judge barred spectators under 21, while a Miami newspaper printed supplemental coverage on hot-pink paper. After three days of deliberation and six inconclusive votes, the jury passed a ruling of not guilty. The courtroom spectacle ended with the cleared couple driving off in a gold Cadillac. Mossler and Powers split after a year or two of living together in Houston. She remarried in 1971, dying five years later as a result of an accidental overdose. Powers died in 2010, following a prosperous career as a real-estate developer.
|While the Mossler-Powers case brought Foreman national attention, he is perhaps best known for defending James Earl Ray, the assassin of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In this KHOU news segment from 1964, Foreman responds to criticism over his representing another controversial client: Jack Ruby. Ruby fatally shot Lee Harvey Oswald while the latter was in police custody for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
ICE BOX MURDERS
On June 23, 1965, Marvin Martin called Houston police to request a welfare check on his aunt and uncle, Fred and Edwina Rogers, with whom he had been unable to get in touch for several days. When officers forced their way into the Montrose home, they found it empty. Noticing food left out in the kitchen, patrolman C. A. Bullock opened the refrigerator, where he discovered the dismembered bodies of the elderly couple. The Rogers’ adult son, Charles, who lived in the house, immediately became a person of interest in the investigation. Despite clean-up efforts, blood evidence was found leading to Charles’ bedroom. Charles was never located and was declared dead in 1975. The case remains unsolved.
|This KHOU news footage captures law enforcement at the Rogers home on the night of and the day after police discovered the crime scene. Neighbors told officers they were not aware Charles lived in the home, who allegedly left before dawn, returned after dark, and only communicated through notes shoved under his attic bedroom door. In 1992, authors John Craig and Philip Rogers (no relation) posited that Charles was a CIA hitman responsible for the Kennedy assassination. According to their theory, Charles murdered his parents after they learned too much about his covert activities.
Police found items believed to have been used in the murder, including a claw hammer, scissors, and a keyhole saw. True crime enthusiasts may be amazed to see the investigators handling these items with their bare hands. Glove-wearing at an active crime scene became standard practice in 1924, to protect law enforcement from biohazardous substances and avoid placing fingerprints. Consideration of cross-contamination during evidence collection and processing did not fully materialize until the development of DNA analysis in the 1980s. The training films below reveal how law enforcement conducted an investigation around the time of the Rogers double homicide.
|Produced by the Texas Department of Public Safety, this government film provides a look into the procedures used in a homicide investigation. Through its many twists and turns, the murder mystery scenario outlines the many departments required to solve a case and bring the perpetrator to justice. Included are demonstrations of fingerprint matching, ballistics testing, chemical analysis, toxicology, autopsy, and a polygraph session. Be advised, the film contains graphic scenes of an autopsy.
|This silent government film, also produced by the Texas Department of Public Safety, demonstrates the procedures performed by the department's crime laboratory to identify perpetrators of criminal activities. Presented as a walk through the laboratory with stops in different units, the film documents a range of investigative techniques and evidence processing, including chemical analysis, ballistics testing, toxicology, fingerprinting, and infrared photography.
On May 16, 1967, Houston police blockaded the Texas Southern University (TSU) campus in response to a student civil rights protest. By that evening, the social unrest escalated into an “Alamo-scale shootout,” according to the Houston Chronicle. Police fired an estimated 3,000 rounds into TSU’s Lanier Dormitory, where students were blockaded. Law enforcement raided the building in the early morning hours of May 17, arresting 488 students—the largest mass arrest in Houston history. Local and national news agencies labeled the incident a riot, despite the reported absence of looting or destruction of property.
|A squad of 60 to 70 riflemen exchanged gunfire with individuals barricaded inside the dormitory, advancing infantry-style in 20-yard increments. Officers raided the residence hall four hours later, finding one shotgun, three rifles, and two Molotov cocktails. While most students had not participated, police arrested nearly all of the residents. Many were transported to jail still wearing their pajamas. This KPRC footage captures the scene following the raid. At a later press conference, Houston Police Chief Herman Short comments on the event's portrayal in a commission report.
|In this KPRC footage, TSU students and television news reporters wait outside the Harris County Jail to greet those released from police custody on May 17. Some do not wish to comment, while others demand an investigation into the Houston Police Department's actions. One student refers to the officers as "honkies," a pejorative term for white people adopted by Black Power militants within the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. At a press conference, Mayor Louis Welch expresses his support of Chief Short and describes what he plans to do to quell any further unrest.
Between the gunfight and police raid, the incident resulted in some $30,000 in property damage to TSU campus. United Press International reported that responding officers broke down some doors with fire axes and shot the locks off others. Gunfire also broke nearly every window along the hall's north side. Two police officers were wounded and another, rookie Louis Kuba, was killed. A small group of students, known as the “TSU Five,” were indicted on charges of inciting a riot, assault, and murder. A judge ultimately dismissed the case due to insufficient evidence, determining that Kuba most likely died from a ricocheting police bullet.
|The "TSU Five" included Charles Freeman, Trazawell Franklin, Douglas Waller, John Parker, and Floyd Nichols. Only Freeman went to trial. To ensure an impartial jury following extensive news coverage of the case, Harris County District Attorney Carol Vance asked Judge Wendell Odom for a change of venue. This KPRC segment captures scenes from the hearing on April 29, 1968, and Judge Odom's comments on his decision to transfer the proceeding to Victoria. Freeman's trial ultimately resulted in a hung jury, with Judge Joe Kelley dropping the charges against all five defendants in June 1970.
Against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement, the TSU Riot highlighted the underlying racial resentment dividing Houston’s Black community and predominantly white police force. The confrontation followed months of campus protests against the university administration, which local law enforcement often met with intimidation or increased surveillance. In the days leading up to the incident, student demonstrators turned their attention to Houston itself, protesting the city’s tendency to locate landfills in majority-Black neighborhoods. With racial tensions remaining high following the TSU Riot, the Houston Police Department established its Community Relations Division in 1968.
ODESSA LUST MURDERS
No criminals command more public attention than serial killers, and Texas hosted its share: the Servant Girl Annihilator, the Phantom Killer, the Candy Man. Fifty years ago, there was also Johnny Meadows.
Between 1968 and 1971, a series of “lust murders” rocked Ector County in West Texas. The murder spree began on October 19, 1968, when bartender Linda Cougat disappeared from an Odessa laundromat. Authorities found her body in a pasture two months later. Victims Dorothy Smith, Eula Miller, and Nancy Mitchell followed. On January 9, 1971, Ruth Maynard, wife of an Odessa policeman, went missing. Police discovered her body a month later near the site where Cougat was found years earlier. By the time Gloria Sue Nix Green disappeared from her Kermit office on June 17, investigators knew they were tracking a serial killer.
|By the summer of 1971, Ector County investigators had six murdered or missing women and zero suspects in custody. Identifying the killer seemed predicated upon finding the remains of the most recent victim, Gloria Sue Nix Green. In this KOSA-TV news segment from August 26, Ector County Sheriff A. M. "Slim" Gabrel scours the rugged terrain in his jeep. The search party was also looking for the remains of missing child Johnnye Janell Henderson. While authorities found Henderson's body, Green's would remain undiscovered until Meadows revealed its location to law enforcement in 1972.
Meadows was arrested in Aztec, New Mexico, on unrelated charges in 1971. Police had questioned him in connection to the Green investigation, but did not charge him. While in custody, however, Meadows began bragging about murders he committed in Odessa. Ector County Sheriff A. M. “Slim” Gabrel flew to New Mexico to interrogate him. After authorities paid his wife $2,000, Meadows directed authorities to the location of Green’s remains. In 1972, he pleaded guilty to Green’s murder and received a life sentence. Meadows also confessed to the murders of Cougat, Smith, and Maynard. At trial, he claimed that Gabrel coerced those statements, and the charges against Meadows in those murders were dismissed. Meadows was paroled to Houston in 1990 after 18 years in prison. A little over two years later, he was sent back to prison for sexual assault. Meadows died at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston in 2000. With an uncertain list of victims, the case of Johnny Meadows remains one of the state’s most notorious.
|Sheriff Gabrel spent several days at the San Juan County Jail in Aztec, New Mexico, questioning Meadows about Green's disappearance. At 3:45 am on January 20, Gabrel telephoned his deputies and informed them where to find her remains. Later that day, Gabrel escorted Meadows back to Odessa, where he charged him with Green's murder. This series of KOSA-TV segments chronicles the search for and arrest of Meadows, including his arrival at the Ector County Jail.
|In this segment for KOSA-TV, Ector County District Attorney John Green expresses the prosecution's disappointment following a bond reduction ruling. Meadows had a history of jumping bond. He had earlier fled to New Mexico to avoid facing charges in three Texas counties. DA Green also criticizes the defense team's attempts to sensationalize the case, saying that in Ector County, they "try their cases in the courtroom, and not in the news media."
CINCO DE MAYO OUTRAGE
On May 5, 1977, Houston police arrested José Campos Torres, a 23-year-old Mexican American and Vietnam War veteran, at an East End bar for disorderly conduct. Rather than transport him to jail for booking, the six responding officers first took Torres to “The Hole,” an isolated area along Buffalo Bayou, and assaulted him. When Torres arrived at the jail several hours later, the desk sergeant refused to book him due to the extent of his injuries and ordered the six officers to take Torres to the hospital for medical treatment. Instead, they brought him back to the Hole. Following another beating, officers pushed Torres off a raised platform into Buffalo Bayou, where he subsequently drowned. His body was discovered on May 8.
|This KPRC news footage tracks the investigation in the weeks after Torres' death. Outside the courtroom, reporters encounter defendants Terry Denson and Steven Orlando (00:19) before speaking with Harris County District Attorney Carol Vance (00:40). Back at the crime scene, divers search the depths of Buffalo Bayou for additional evidence, including Torres' wallet (01:03). Police Chief Pappy Bond comments on the purpose of the Civilian Review Board (02:56), while Assistant District Attorney Ted Poe describes coordination between the District Attorney's Office and the grand jury (04:59).
A Harris County grand jury indicted two of the officers, Terry Denson and Steven Orlando, for murder. Following a month-long trial, an all-white jury convicted Denson and Orlando on a reduced charge of negligent homicide—a misdemeanor. Judge James Warref sentenced them to one-year probation and a $1 fine. The US Department of Justice subsequently conducted its own investigation, convicting all six officers of violating Torres’ civil rights and Denson and Orlando of assault. To critics of the Houston Police Department, Torres’ death demonstrated a pattern of brute force and police violence. Even Mayor Fred Hofheinz admitted that there was “something loose in this city that is an illness.” Public outcry prompted Police Chief B. G. “Pappy” Bond to create the department’s Internal Affairs Division on May 16.
|Torres's death outraged the local Chicano community, sparking protests outside the Harris County Courthouse and police headquarters. This KPRC news segment documents a demonstration outside Houston City Hall on May 12, 1977. Chanting "stop killer cops!," picketers connect Torres' death to the larger issue of police violence against the Mexican American community. One organizer pledges regular rallies until the city council agrees to establish a private citizens inquest.
|A Harris County grand jury only indicted three of the six implicated officers. Carless Elliott, who reported the assault and served as a witness for the prosecution, was never charged, while Lewis Kinney and Glenn Brinkmeyer were granted immunity in exchange for their testimony. Don Shelby reports on Lewis and Elliott testifying during the grand jury hearing in this KPRC news segment from June 6, 1977. He also talks with District Attorney Vance about cooperating with a concurrent FBI investigation.
Around the one-year anniversary of Torres’ death, the simmering social unrest erupted into riots. When police attempted to make an arrest at a Cinco de Mayo celebration in Moody Park, attendees retaliated. Some threw rocks and bottles at law enforcement officers, while others overturned police cars. The situation escalated as more officers in riot gear arrived on the scene. Stores across a ten-block area around Fulton Street were looted and set on fire. The violence ended by the early morning hours of May 8. Twenty-two people were arrested.
TYLER DRUG SCANDAL
Between 1978 and 1979, the Tyler Police Department conducted what was then the largest drug bust ever attempted in East Texas. Officers Creig Matthews and Kim Ramsey (later Wozencraft) went undercover to investigate the city’s growing crime and narcotics scene, with local bar owner Ken Bora as the primary target. The duo assembled over 200 cases—resulting in over 100 arrests—but Bora remained uncharged. Shortly after the investigation ended, a shotgun-wielding assailant fired on Matthews and Wozencraft outside her mobile home, severely wounding Matthews. Billionaire H. Ross Perot, then serving as chairman of a special crime commission, subsequently put the couple up in a Dallas safe house so that they might begin their trial testimony. Both claimed that they had purchased drugs from Bora, with Wozencraft testifying that he arranged the shooting. Bora was convicted of attempted murder.
|Organized crime became a key target for state and local law enforcement after the onset of Prohibition. This 1973 government film follows a group of Texas lawmen as they bring down an illegal gambling racket whose dastardly cohorts resort to violence and murder in waging their criminal war against society. Presented by the Texas Criminal Justice Council and the Texas Department of Public Safety and based on DPS case files, the drama ultimately functions to garner public support for state wiretap legislation.
In 1982, evidence surfaced that Matthews and Wozencraft had falsified evidence and lied under oath. According to Wozencraft, the agents became addicted to drugs during the investigation and falsely testified against Bora to satisfy Police Chief Willie Hardy’s demand for an arrest. Both pleaded guilty to civil rights violations. The convictions against Bora and all other drug defendants were thrown out as a result. Matthews and Wozencraft were sentenced to 3 years and 18 months in prison, respectively. As the operation’s supervisor, Chief Hardy was also arrested. While found not guilty, the scandal destroyed his law enforcement career.
|Wozencraft was released from prison in 1983. Seven years later, she published an autobiographical novel, Rush, based on the corrupt drug operation. The following year, director Lili Fini Zanuck adapted the book into a feature-length film starring Jason Patric and Jennifer Jason Leigh. In this unedited footage, likely taped for Entertainment Tonight around the film's release, director Jim Ruddy interviews former Chief Hardy. In the first segment, Hardy talks about the operation and when he knew something had gone wrong.
|In the second segment, Hardy responds to allegations made by Wozencraft in and outside her novel. He also talks about his own indictment. Wozencraft claimed that when she informed Hardy that she and Matthews had become addicted to drugs in the course of their undercover work, he merely instructed them to take a couple of days off before resuming their pursuit. She also alleged that the agents falsified evidence against Bora because Hardy put such intense pressure on them to get an arrest.
On October 16, 1991, 35-year-old George Pierre Hennard drove his 1987 Ford Ranger pickup through the front window of a Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen. Emerging from his truck, Hennard, an unemployed former Merchant Marine from nearby Belton, began to open fire on the restaurant’s patrons and staff. Over the course of about 15 minutes, Hennard shot and killed 23 people, wounding another 27. Shortly after police arrived and exchanged fire with the gunman, Hennard died by suicide. Authorities were unable to conclusively determine a motive for the shooting. The Los Angeles Times described Hennard as a “reclusive, belligerent man with an explosive temper” and possible hatred of women.
|In this 1991 segment for Dallas-Fort Worth's KXAS-TV, reporter Deborah Ferguson checks in with survivors ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. Suzanna Gratia (later Hupp) lost both of her parents in the shooting. Questioning what might have happened had she not removed her gun from her purse and locked it in her car before entering the restaurant that day, she went on to testify across the country in support of concealed handgun laws. Then Texas Governor George W. Bush signed such legislation into state law in 1995. The following year, Hupp was elected to the Texas House of Representatives.
A few months after the massacre, America’s Most Wanted, the long-running criminal investigation television program, arrived in Killeen to shoot a special broadcast. The program’s departure from its typical format of focusing on the capture of criminals, as well as the producers’ decision to film a reenactment of the tragedy, raised the ire of several local community members, including Killeen Mayor Major Blair. The majority of survivors, however, approved of the America’s Most Wanted special and welcomed the support of host John Walsh.
|In this footage taped for Entertainment Tonight, director Jim Ruddy talks to survivor Mary Roberts. Roberts recounts her experience inside the restaurant and her encounter with the gunman, recalling him making derogatory comments about women. Authorities believe a hatred of women and minorities is a possible motive for the shooting.
|In this footage taped for Entertainment Tonight, Ruddy speaks with Ken Olson, a Killeen police officer and investigator. Olson describes what he saw upon arriving at the deadly scene as well as exchanging gunfire with the shooter. He also discusses the benefits of the America's Most Wanted special.
Sadly, tragedies like the mass shooting in Killeen are an all too common occurrence in Texas. Four of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern US history took place in the Lone Star State, three of which happened in the past six years. In 2017—16 years after Killeen—a shooter killed 26 parishioners at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. Two years later, a lone gunman murdered 23 people in an El Paso Walmart. Last May, a teenager fatally shot 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.
THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED
On March 31, 1995, singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez arrived at a Corpus Christi Days Inn to meet with her friend, fan club president, and fashion boutique manager, Yolanda Saldívar. The Quintanilla family suspected Saldívar of embezzling funds. When the women started to argue, Saldívar pointed a gun at Selena, shooting the singer in the back as she attempted to flee. Despite the quick arrival of paramedics, the artery-piercing wound proved fatal, and Selena was pronounced dead at the hospital. She was 23. Saldívar engaged in a nearly 10-hour standoff with law enforcement before surrendering into police custody.
|In this segment for NBC News, broadcast on April 3, 1995, Larry Weidman reports from Dallas about memorial services honoring Selena. In her hometown of Corpus Christi, fans attend a public funeral. In Los Angeles, where the singer was scheduled to perform, the planned concert turns into a memorial mass. Weidman also previews Saldívar's upcoming arraignment.
Before her death, Selena had garnered considerable celebrity. After her death, the Queen of Tejano music achieved “saintlike status almost equal to that of the Virgin of Guadalupe,” said Joe Nick Patoski for Texas Monthly. So when the State of Texas v. Yolanda Saldívar began in Houston on October 9—just six days after the O. J. Simpson murder trial concluded—media outlets swarmed. More than 200 press credentials were issued, with Spanish-language networks Univision and Telemundo airing at least 90 minutes of coverage daily. After two-and-a-half hours of deliberation, the jury found Saldívar guilty of murder and gave her the maximum sentence: life in prison. She will be eligible for parole in 2025.
|To ensure an impartial jury, Nueces County prosecutors moved Saldívar's murder trial to Houston. In this footage taped for Entertainment Tonight, director Jim Ruddy speaks with Harris County District Court Administrator Jack Thompson about the public interest in the case. Thompson discusses press court access and the lottery system put in place to admit spectators. Ruddy also spoke to fans like Diana Rodriguez, who demonstrated their support for Selena by holding signs or shouting chants outside the courthouse.
|In this footage taped for Entertainment Tonight, Univision news anchor María Celeste Arraras describes the measures taken by the Spanish-language network to report on the Saldívar trial, which she calls "O. J. Simpson for Hispanics." Univision set up a mini-studio outside the courthouse, broadcasting at least 90 minutes of coverage daily. (Arraras takes Ruddy on a tour of the makeshift studio here.) The news program Arraras anchored, Primer Impacto, aired across the United States and in 15 Latin American countries.
Edited and reproduced in 2023 by Katharine Austin.
It features archival materials contributed to the award-winning Texas Film Round-Up program by the following individuals and organizations: KPRC-TV, Jim Ruddy, Texas Department of Public Safety Historical Museum and Research Center, University of Texas of the Permian Basin, Larry Weidman, and Rick Wyly.
The digital preservation of the KHOU-TV Collection was made possible by a grant to the Texas Archive of the Moving Image and the Houston Public Library from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.
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Kennedy, J. Michael and Richard A. Serrano. 1991. “Police May Never Learn What Motivated Gunman.” Los Angeles Times, October 18, 1991.
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Martin, Douglas. 2010. “Melvin Lane Powers Is Dead at 68; Cleared of Murder With Lover-Aunt.” New York Times, October 18, 2010.
Patoski, Joe Nick. 1995. “The Sweet Song of Justice.” Texas Monthly, December 1995.
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