25 notorious San Antonio crimes 

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Plenty of crime has gone down in and around San Antonio during its centuries of existence. And some of those cases made indelible marks of the city's psyche — marks that persist decades later. We rounded up some of those noteworthy crimes to refresh your memory.
OF 25
The Murder of Heidi Seeman
In 1990, 11-year-old Heidi Lynn Seeman was walking home down Stahl Road after spending the night at a friend’s house. She disappeared, and community members spent weeks searching for her. Just 21 days after she went missing, Heidi’s body was discovered in a rural area outside of Wimberly. An autopsy revealed that Heidi was raped, strangled and killed before her body was wrapped in trash bags. News of her death shocked and horrified San Antonians. Investigators have never identified her killer.
File photo
The Angel of Death
Today, Genene Jones sits in jail as a woman in her late 60s. Thirty years ago, she was a young nurse that used her profession to kill innocent babies, injecting them with a variety of drugs. Nicknamed the “Angel of Death,” Jones is suspected of murdering about 42 infants under her care, though she has only been convicted for killing a baby girl at a Kerrville clinic. She was originally sentenced to 99 years in prison, but recent district attorneys have made it a point to keep her behind bars despite her parole by charging her with other infant deaths.
Photo via Texas Department of Justice
The Butcher of Elmendorf
Joseph D. Ball spent his post-World War I life as a bootlegger, providing illegal liquor to folks who had the funds. After Prohibition, he opened a saloon called the Sociable Inn in Elmendorf. The saloon featured a pond that was home to six alligators. Not long after the saloon opened, women in the area began going missing – more specifically, women in Ball’s life were disappearing, including barmaids, old girlfriends and his wife. Nicknamed the “Alligator Man,” the “Butcher of Elmendorf” and the “Bluebeard of South Texas,” Ball was reportedly responsible for the death of as many as 20 women in the 1930s, using the alligators to dispose of the bodies if he chose not to bury them in the sand. When Bexar County sheriff’s deputies questioned him about the murders, it’s said that Ball pulled a handgun from the cash register and killed himself.
Photo via Wikipedia
The Kids That Were Chained Up Like Dogs
In late April 2016, Bexar County sheriff’s deputies rescued eight children from a home, ranging in age from 10 months to 10 years. Two toddlers were found chained up in the backyard – a 4-year-old boy chained to the ground while a 3-year-old girl was tied to a door using a dog leash. The children suffered a variety of ailments, from broken bones to malnourishment, with the effects lasting months. Deandre Dorch and his girlfriend Porucha Phillips were charged with neglecting Phillips’ own children as well as the tied-up children of Cheryl Reed, who left them in Phillips’ care while she spent time in California.
Photos via Bexar County Jail
The Murder of Madalyn Murray O'Hair
American Atheists founder Madalyn Murray O’Hair first gained fame for 1963’s Murray v. Curlett in which she challenged mandatory prayers and Bible reading in public schools in Baltimore. It was deemed unconstitutional. She then used her voice to call for the separation of church and state. Decades later, she and one of her sons, Jon Garth, and her adoptive daughter (who was actually her granddaughter) disappeared while on business in San Antonio. Garth Murray had withdrawn large sums of money from American Atheists’ funds prior to his disappearance, causing people to believe that the trio had absconded. In reality, a former AA employee had murdered the Murrays.
Photo via Twitter / ChasingMoonBk
The Ingram Square Fire
A massive, 4-alarm fire blazed through the Ingram Square shopping center on May 18, 2017. Nearly 100 firefighters were called to the scene where the fire took over multiple units in the strip. As firefighters battled the blaze for hours, two suffered injuries which required hospitalization and one brave soul, Scott Deem, died after he was trapped when part of the building collapsed. He was the first firefighter to die in the line of duty since 1997. Months later, in October, investigators learned that a business owner at the shopping complex, Emond Johnson, intentionally started the fire in an attempt to not pay the $7,000 he owed on his lease. Johnson was charged with murder, arson resulting in death, arson of a building, among others.
Photo via Facebook / San Antonio Professional Fire Fighters Association
The Kidnapping of Archbishop Patrick Flores
In 2000, a man named Nelson Antonio Escolero kidnapped then-Archbishop Patrick Flores and his secretary Myrtle Sanchez. Escolero held the pair hostage for nine hours with what he said was a homemade hand grenade after he approached the beloved religious figure with a list of government officials to contact about an immigration issue. Escolero, of El Salvador, became combative and threatened Flores. He was later found guilty of aggravated kidnapping.
Photo via Twitter / satodaycatholic
The Vandalism of the San Antonio Missions
San Antonians were angered after reports of two missions being defaced with politically-motivated graffitti in June 2018. A day after First Lady Melania Trump wore a jacket that read, “I Really Don’t Care. Do U?” after visiting a Texas immigrations detention center, the same message was spray-painted on the walls of Missions San Jose and San Juan. Security footage revealed that three individuals took part in the incident, and were quickly identified as Andres Castaneda, Gabriella Fritz and Sydney Faris. The trio was handed community service and $10,500 in penalties as part of their sentencing.
Photos via Bexar County Jail
”The Devil Made Me Do It”
Otty Sanchez had just given birth to her baby boy just weeks before she mutilated and dismembered him because the devil told her to. In July 2009, a family member found the mutilated body of Scott Wesley Buchholz-Sanchez, just three weeks old. In the 911 phone call, the distraught mother can be heard wailing, “I didn’t mean to do it! He told me to!” A week before Scott’s death, Sanchez had sought mental health treatment after hearing voices telling her that the devil was in her son but the medication she took the day before the murder didn’t have time to take effect. In the end, she killed her son, who she partially consumed because the voices told her the demons inside her stomach would come out if she did so. She was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was sent to a state mental institution.
Photo via Instagram / murder210
The Shooting at the 1979 Battle of Flowers Parade
April 27, 1979. The darkest Battle of Flowers parade in San Antonio history brough hysteria to the streets after a man – 64-year-old Ire Attebury – opened fire during the Fiesta celebration. The veteran had stockpiled guns and ammunition in his motor home parked nearby and shot throughout the scene for about 30 minutes. Initially he had shot six police officers, but by the end of the incident he had killed two women – Amelia Castillo and Ida Dollard – and injured more than 50 attendees. Attebury was later found inside the motor home. Investigators are still unsure whether his own bullet or a shot from an officer was the one that killed him.
Photo by Al Guzman for San Antonio Light
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The Staged Kidnapping of King Jay Davila
A week after telling police that his son was kidnapped from a West Side convenience store in January 2019, Christopher Davila led investigators to the body of King Jay Davila, only eight months old at the time of his death. Davila said the baby had fallen out of his car seat, which was on top of a bed, and onto the floor while under his care, and that he staged an elaborate kidnapping to cover King Jay’s death. After telling detectives that King Jay was kidnapped, going so far as to have his cousin pose as the abductor, Davila revealed that he had wrapped the baby’s body in a blanket, stuffed it into a backpack and buried it not too far from his home.
Photo via Twitter / SATXpolice
The Sutherland Springs Mass Shooting
South Texas was forever changed on November 5, 2017, when a gunman entered a church in the small town of Sutherland Springs, just 40 miles southeast of San Antonio, and opened fire. Churchgoers at the town’s First Baptist Church fell victim to Devin Patrick Kelley, who killed 26 people and injured others during an 11 a.m. service. Kelley parked across the street from the church and began shooting from his car and all the way until he got inside the church, and then continued to shoot. Bystanders were able to get Kelley to drop his weapon, though the gunman managed to drive away. He was later found dead in his car. The Sutherland Springs shooting remains the largest mass shooting in Texas history.
Photo via Reuters
The Assassination of Judge John Wood
While serving as a U.S. District Judge in the Western District of Texas, Judge John Wood made some enemies. He was nicknamed “Maximum John” due to his harsh sentencing of drug traffickers. On May 29, 1979, Wood was standing at the door of his vehicle when a man pulled the trigger on a high-powered rifle. The bullet struck the small of Wood’s back and got lodged near the upper part of his chest. The killer? A paid assassin named Charles Harrelson, father of actor Woody Harrelson. The federal courthouse is now named after Wood.
Photo via Instagram / murduppodcast
The Great Shark Robbery
San Antonio was in the national spotlight in 2018 when two men and a woman were caught on camera stealing a baby shark from the local aquarium. The trio was seen taking a 1-and-a-half-foot horn shark from its tank, putting it into a bucket and placing that bucket in a stroller so it appeared as if they were pushing a baby around. Due to security footage, police were able to name the main culprit as Anthony Shannon, whose garage was filled with various marine life and other pets not intended for its storage.
Photo via Facebook / San Antonio Aquarium
The Murders and Disposal of Sariyah Garcia and Sebastian Lopez
While all account of child abuse stay with us, the heartbreaking deaths of 14-month-old Sariyah Garcia and 4-month-old Sebastian Lopez sting a little bit differently. In 2007, a woman named Valerie Lopez and her boyfriend Jerry Salazar killed Valerie’s two children (Lopez reportedly suffocated Sebastian and beating Sariyah), wrapped their bodies in trash bags and hid them beneath her wood-frame house. Immediately after the news broke, the home became a memorial for the babies, as well as a place for angered residents to leave messages like, “Burn in hell Valerie and Jerry.” Both avoided the death sentence and were instead given life in prison without parole.
Photo via Facebook / In loving Memory of Sariyah Garcia and Sebastian Lopez
The Great (Little) Train Robbery
The last known train robbery occurred right here in San Antonio, back in the summer of 1970. Families had packed onto the Brackenridge train when two masked men jumped from high brush within the park, brandished a revolver and ordered for the 75 passengers to hand over their valuables. The men walked around with pillowcases, expecting train-riders to throw in their stuff. The robbers got away with about $500 in cash, car keys, checkbooks and credit cards. Police later identified the robbers as two soldiers stationed at Fort Sam Houston. They were sentenced to 10-20 years in prison.
Photo via Twitter / TheHistoryofTX
The Cross-Country Killer
Tommy Lynn Sells lived life as a serial killer, which he stemmed due to his being molested by a man as a young boy with the consent of his mother. As a teen and young adult, Sells hitchhiked across the U.S., committing crimes along the way. He claimed to have committed his first murder at the age of 15, and authorities believe he was responsible for 22 deaths, though he once claimed to be responsible for more than 70 deaths. One such murder was that of 9-year-old girl named Mary Beatrice Perez, who Sells killed in April 1999 while the girl was celebrating Fiesta at Market Square with her family. Her body was found a week later in Alazan Creek. Sells was executed in 2014 after declining to make a final statement, with Perez’s family in attendance.
Photo via Texas Department of Justice
The Killings at the Hands of Robert "Beaver" Perez
A leader of the prison-based Mexican Mafia, Robert “Beaver” Perez was linked to more than 15 murders locally. Using his charisma and ruthlessness to gain control within the gang, Perez was finally nabbed for shooting two fellow gang members after the mafia split in two, though he reportedly ordered a number of other brutal deaths. Though he never served a sentence for it, Perez was also convicted for his ordering a hit on a home on West French Place, which resulted in five deaths.
Photo via Texas Department of Justice
The H-E-B Executive Who Had a Massive Child Pornography Collection
In 2017, police learned that John Morgan Campbell, the man behind H-E-B’s Central Market stores, had a large collection of child pornography dating as far back as 2014. A fellow H-E-B employee notified authorities after Campbell sent an email with one of the images. When police arrested Campbell, he reportedly told officers, “You got me” and “This is what happens when you do stupid things.” Months after his arrest, Campbell said his collection was due to his sex addiction and alcoholism. He was convicted on 48 counts and sentenced to 10 years in prison for the possession and promotion of child pornography.
Photo via Bexar County Jail
The Murder of Viola Barrios
San Antonians know and love local family-owned eateries Los Barrios and Viola’s Ventanas today, but the success comes after decades of hard work, and the death of the matriarch. Viola Barrios founded Los Barrios in 1979, and the restaurant over time gained local and even national recognition. The entrepreneur’s life was cut short in April 2008 when Joe Estrada, then 18, broke into Barrios’ home, shot her in the head with an arrow, took some of her belongings and set fire to the home before fleeing the scene in her car. It was later discovered that Estrada lived right next door to Barrios, who was 76 at the time of her death.
Photo via Instagram / losbarriosrestaurant
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Carlos Uresti’s Pyramid Scheme
After years of scandals and pressure for action to be taken, former state senator Carlos Uresti was found guilty of 11 counts of fraud and money laundering charges for his role in the FourWinds Ponzi scheme. Investors, including a woman he had an affair with, of the defunct fracking sand company lost their money while Uresti and others profited. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Photo by Alex Zielinski
The Sexual Assault Blamed on Dogs
A horrific child abuse case has stayed with San Antonians since news broke. On December 31, 2016, Crystal Herrera called 911 and said her daughter, only 21 months, had been attacked by dogs after she wandered off. When authorities arrived at the home, they saw that the child had multiple injuries to her genital and anal area. Doctors who treated the child quickly realized that Herrera’s story and the baby’s injuries didn’t add up, determining that the toddler had suffered brutal sexual assault. She also had stab wounds on her upper body and genital area, which doctors said were intentional. An investigation found that Herrera’s boyfriend, Isaac Andrew Cardenas, had committed the crime. He was convicted of super aggravated sexual assault of a child and is currently in jail.
Photo via Bexar County Jail
The Lovers’ Lane Killer
Juan Castilo was a young man when, in 2003, he tried to rob Tommy Garcia, who had parked his car on a remote road known as “Lovers’ Lane.” Prosecutors said Garcia was set up by his girlfriend at the time, who reportedly conspired with Castillo and two others to lure him with the promise of sex and drugs. Castillo attempted to rob Garcia, but shot him seven times when he refused and tried running away. Castillo maintained his innocence up until his death row execution in 2018.
Photo via Texas Department of Justice
The 18-Wheeler Human Smuggling Case
James Matthew Bradley Jr. was driving an 18-wheeler full of undocumented migrants. when he pulled into a Walmart parking lot on the city’s South Side. While some fled the scene as soon as they arrived, police at the scene discovered 38 people packed into the truck’s windowless, sweltering trailer. In total, 10 men died from the incident and dozens more were left with serious heat-related injuries. Bradley claimed to have not known what was inside the trailer, and said he only discovered the migrants when he pulled over to use the bathroom and heard banging noises. Bradley was later sentenced to life in prison for his role in the human trafficking case.
Photo via ABC 13
The Murder of Otto Koehler
Otto and Emma Koehler lived a happy life, as Otto was the president of the Pearl Brewery in its heyday in the 20th century. Emma Koehler was in an automobile accident in 1910, prompting Otto to hire a live-in nurse named Emmi. Emmi and Otto soon started an affair. Emmi introduced Otto to her blonde friend also named Emma, and who Otto also had an affair with. The brewery man set up Emmi and Emma with a house, at which got into an argument with blonde Emma, who shot him in November 1914. She skipped town and left to Europe where she nursed World War I casualties. She eventually returned four years later, standing trial and being found not guilty. Emma Koehler, Otto’s widow, took over the brewery and operated it with much success before handing over the control to a nephew in 1933. For her hard work, the Hotel Emma was named after her.
Photo via Twitter / HistoricPearl
The Murder of Heidi Seeman
In 1990, 11-year-old Heidi Lynn Seeman was walking home down Stahl Road after spending the night at a friend’s house. She disappeared, and community members spent weeks searching for her. Just 21 days after she went missing, Heidi’s body was discovered in a rural area outside of Wimberly. An autopsy revealed that Heidi was raped, strangled and killed before her body was wrapped in trash bags. News of her death shocked and horrified San Antonians. Investigators have never identified her killer.
File photo

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