916.695.6882; jazmineulloa@gmail.com

Daily and enterprise stories from the night crime beat.

Online collective aims to ‘print’ plastic guns

By Jazmine Ulloa
Austin American-Statesman
 
Cody Wilson’s idea was not to sell guns but to print them — lots of them — with the mission of developing an open-source design that could be widely shared and distributed online.

But the second-year law student at the University of Texas has found himself at the center of a legal controversy after the 3-D printing company that allowed him to borrow a printer sent a team of contractors late last week to reclaim its property a day after it was delivered to his central Austin apartment near Hyde Park.
Full story.

Family, co-workers mourn man killed while changing tire

By Jazmine Ulloa
Austin American-Statesman
 
Ana Margarita Loredo had been joking with her father last week alongside the curb of their East Austin home, when she said she saw a silver Mercury Tracer violently swerve in their direction. She does not know how she managed to escape its path, she said, but she regrets not moving quickly enough to save her father.

“I keep thinking maybe there was something I could have done, but I never thought the car would hit my car,” she said in Spanish on Monday.
Full story.

Residents near 12th, Chicon say momentum turning

By Jazmine Ulloa
Austin American-Statesman
 
At the corner of 12th and Chicon streets, where gentrification is transforming the demographics of a historic neighborhood, new and longtime residents have found common ground: a demand for public safety.

For more than 40 years, authorities say, empty businesses and blighted houses have sustained a bustling sale of pot and crack cocaine along the streets and alleys of an intersection marked by a stubborn notoriety. The trade runs night and day, and efforts to stymie the ensuing stream of prostitution, theft and occasional violence have fallen by the wayside through the decades, leaving what some say is a stinging residue of bitter relations with police.
Full story.

Lack of funding leads to backlog of untested rape kits

By Jazmine Ulloa
Austin American-Statesman
 
To investigators in San Marcos, he was an unidentified strain of DNA, a sequence of numbers and letters swabbed off the skin of his victim in February 2011 and entered into a national FBI database under unsolved case 11-09621.

But not until last month did Buda and Austin police learn his name, officials said, by tracking him down in a separate sexual assault case that led to his arrest.
Full story.

Austin drug seizures are up, but what does it mean?

By Jazmine Ulloa
Austin American-Statesman
 
On display last month on long, white tables next to guns and stacks of cash were more than a dozen bricks of cocaine and six small bundles of heroin. Four blocks of marijuana the size of throw pillows sat nearby.

The narcotics seizures made by the Austin Police Department in three separate cases over an estimated three weeks were among the largest in its history.
Full story.

Austin police’s missing-person unit has high rate of success

By Jazmine Ulloa
Austin American-Statesman
 
A call came in this month from a mother who said her 18 -year-old son was gone. He took the car and had not attended school, made it to work or even picked up his paycheck in the two weeks since he was last seen. She did not know his friends or have any of their names, phone numbers or addresses. She could not think of a reason why he would have just dropped everything and left.

On a muggy December morning, Detectives David Gann and Timothy Hoppock , with the missing persons unit of the Austin Police Department , stood outside the woman’s East Austin apartment, running through all the possible leads.
Full story.

Remains of Kyle woman missing for seven years identified

By Jazmine Ulloa
Austin American-Statesman
 
KYLE — On Wednesday morning, Maria Piñeda received a painful answer to the question she said she had been asking herself for the past seven years, “Where is my daughter?”

Authorities with the Hays County sheriff’s office and the Justice of the Peace came to tell her that remains recovered from the Blanco River in March were identified as her 24-year-old daughter, Laurie Piñeda, who was swept away at a flooded low-water crossing northeast of San Marcos on Nov. 14, 2004.
Full story.

Body found may be missing elderly woman, police say

By Jazmine Ulloa
Austin American-Statesman
 
In the days after Mary Townsley was reported missing, her longtime friend and neighbor, David Robert Bravo, said he kept listening for a knock on the wall.

Townsley, 81, is a frail, quiet woman whose hands and feet are disfigured and often ache, he said. Whenever she fell, she could not get back up and would tap at the thin plaster dividing their apartments to call him.
Full story.

Woman’s kin hope for answers in slaying

By Jazmine Ulloa
San Antonio Express-News
 
A photo of Maria Teresa Leon kept next to the urn holding her ashes shows a woman with solemn eyes and long, dark hair. In the days before she went missing, her parents recalled, their daughter had seemed
quieter than usual.

Leon, 38, worked at a local shoe factory. She was reserved and prone to worry, and she rarely smiled, said her father, Abel Leon. A single mother to an 8-year-old boy and sole provider for her parents, there were bills to pay, chores to do and homework to help with.
Full story.

Courthouse partiers just want to go home

By Jazmine Ulloa
San Antonio Express-News
 
The trip was to last three months, the adventure of a lifetime.

The idea was to tour the United States from the East to West coasts and back in a rented recreational vehicle, breakdancing on the streets to scrounge up extra cash as needed.

The five young men, all French citizens, saved money for six months, charting routes, booking hotels, buying tickets. But the cross-country trek ended abruptly after two of them broke into the Bexar County Courthouse early Wednesday.
Full story.

Family remembers victim of fiery crash

By Jazmine Ulloa
San Antonio Express-News
 
When Francisco Perez wed his wife almost 25 years ago, she knew how to cook only one dish, he recalls.

“Arroz con pollo,” he said in Spanish with a faint chuckle. Rice and chicken. “Practically every day for the first two months of our marriage that is what she prepared for me: arroz con pollo. Arroz con pollo. Arroz con pollo.”

But Matilde Perez, 39, killed in a fiery crash on the South Side early last week, had mastered the culinary arts and had been working as a caterer in the months before her death, her husband said. A vivacious woman who loved to dance, laugh and work with her hands, she made some mean chiles rellenos and a mole no one in the family could duplicate.

The recipes seemed hers alone, though she shared them with everyone, her sister, Juanita Peña, 40, remembered.

“She was a giver and a creator. She had a talent,” Peña said. “She would see something, visualize it, and she would do it.”

That energy inspired others, recalled family members, still shocked and devastated by the collision that took her life and that of a friend, Alejandro Cervantes, 22.

That Sunday morning, Matilde and Francisco Perez, joined by Cervantes and another friend, Oscar Renteria, 34, were on their way to a lake when the SUV they were riding in crashed through a fence, rolled and burst into flames. San Antonio police said the driver appeared to have missed a curve at Southton and Center roads.
Arriving firefighters and EMS responders found the vehicle ablaze.

Francisco Perez, 44, and Renteria were ejected and have since been released from area hospitals.

Relatives said they wanted to remember Matilde Perez for her bright smile and her devotion to her three children and three grandchildren as she chauffeured, chaperoned and participated in their activities, whether it was ROTC, football or cheerleading.

“She would move the Earth and water to fulfill her children’s dreams,” Peña said. “She was a mother when she had to be a mother, but the child in her never left. She showed her kids she knew what it was like to be a kid.”

Her daughter, Sabrina Perez, 20, said she and her mother were inseparable. They would go running or shopping together. They would build crafts or cook or construct flower arrangements. An idea for their latest project, decorative boxes for diaper wipes, never saw fruition, Sabrina Perez lamented.

“It’s hard to wake up in the mornings,” she said. “My mother’s house was always full of music; all the neighbors could hear it.”

Other loved ones remembered Matilde Perez for her acts of kindness. She once organized a baby shower for a young woman she met at a store while browsing for clothes for her grandchildren. She threw a small quinceañera in her backyard for a girl who lived down the street and whose family could not afford the coming-of-age party.

When she would take lunch to her husband at the construction site where he worked, Matilde Perez would bring enough for his co-workers, too.

Francisco Perez said he met his wife when they were teenagers. It is hard now to be without her, he said in his South Side home.

“There will never be another woman like her,” he said. “She filled my life with happiness.”

As published July 27, 2011

 

Driver killed in fiery wreck on I-35

By Jazmine Ulloa
San Antonio Express-News
 
A woman died Friday evening in a fiery crash on Interstate 35 that left the northbound lanes of the freeway closed for hours.

Witnesses fought frantically to pull the woman and several passengers out of her vehicle, which was pinned under an 18-wheeler.

The driver of the big rig and the five passengers in the small car, ages 6 to 18 and all members of a family that was headed for Canyon Lake, escaped, authorities said.

Other members of the family were following in another car.

Trucker Edwin Trammell said he slammed on his brakes when he heard the clanking of metal. Looking in his side mirror, he saw the vehicle wedged underneath his trailer.

The 18-wheeler, carrying fireworks, mops and sponges, was already on fire when it came to a stop, and Trammell said he rushed out with a fire extinguisher.

Witnesses in other cars also scrambled to the family’s aid, authorities said.
“They did everything they could. I did everything I could,” he said, fighting back tears at the scene. “It wasn’t enough.”

Authorities initially shut down northbound Interstate 35 between the New Braunfels Avenue and Binz Engleman Road exits during the evening rush hour. Later, the closure was reduced to between Walters Street and Binz Engleman.

It remained closed late into the night as traffic investigators tried to piece together what happened, but officials expected it to be reopened early today.

After a preliminary investigation, San Antonio police said the truck and the car were traveling north shortly after 6 p.m. when one or possibly both drivers tried to merge into a lane.

The car became caught under the trailer and was dragged several yards before the 18-wheeler caught fire.

The car was left charred and almost unidentifiable, buried under the weight of the trailer.

Investigators said the blaze probably wasn’t caused by the fireworks, which had been stored near the front of the trailer, but by the friction of the car as it was dragged along the freeway, causing the trailer’s back tires to melt.
Trammell, 61, said he was heading to Fulton, Mo., from Laredo.

He vowed he’d never drive another truck.

“I’ve never had an accident like this in my life,” he said, breathing deeply. “I’m speechless.”

As published July 16, 2011