The Victim's Victims
One day in the summer of 1994, Robert Carreiro was sitting in a Harris County courtroom listening to pretrial motions in the capital murder case of Rex Mays. It was a time that Carreiro had long awaited in conspicuous fashion.
Approximately two years earlier -- on July 20, 1992 -- Carreiro's seven-year-old daughter, Kynara, and her best friend, ten-year-old Kristin Wiley, had been savagely stabbed to death in a bedroom of the Wiley home. For 19 months, detectives from the Harris County Sheriff's Office searched for the girls' killer before eventually arresting Mays, the Wileys' quiet next-door neighbor.
During the year and a half that the killer remained at large, Bob Carreiro -- a ponytailed, tattooed motorcycle enthusiast -- emerged from obscurity to become one of the highest-profile members of the burgeoning victims' rights movement. He joined Justice for All, a group that lobbies for tougher penalties against violent criminals, and was elected to the board of Parents of Murdered Children. He developed into a fixture at the criminal courthouse, attending murder trials and comforting and encouraging other surviving victims. On Oprah, he described how nerve-racking it was to wait for Kynara's killer to be brought to justice; on Jerry Springer, he broke down and cried.
Now, six months after Mays' arrest, and more than two years after Kynara's death, Carreiro found himself in the courtroom of state District Judge Brian Rains. This time Carreiro was not there to comfort some other grief-stricken family. This time it was his turn to receive some degree of satisfaction. He watched as prosecutors and defense attorneys made their pretrial maneuvers, laying the groundwork to decide Mays' fate.
Rice Owls Football vs. Southern Miss
TicketsSat., Nov. 11, 2:30pm
Houston Texans vs. Arizona Cardinals
TicketsSun., Nov. 19, 12:00pm
Rice Owls Football vs. North Texas
TicketsSat., Nov. 25, 12:00pm
Houston Texans vs. San Francisco 49ers
TicketsSun., Dec. 10, 12:00pm
Houston Texans vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
TicketsMon., Dec. 25, 3:30pm
But despite Carreiro's public image, he was not thinking only about his dead daughter. Nor was he simply contemplating the justice that might finally be at hand. On this important day, Carreiro was also thinking about money and how to get it. And he had already selected an unlikely target: the family of his dead daughter's friend. Kip Wiley, 37, his wife Rebecca, 36, and his stepson Jeremy, now 19, were about to become Bob Carreiro's own victims.
"Bob came up and made mention of the fact that he had a right to sue me," recalls Kip Wiley. "I told him he should do what he thought he needed to do."
Two years after that day in court, Wiley believes Carreiro has gone too far. It's not just the money, not just that he's suing the Wileys for $2.5 million. More important -- at least to Kip Wiley -- Carreiro is also claiming that the Wileys were responsible for the death of his daughter. In the lawsuit, Wiley's stepson, who was 14 at the time of the murders, is singled out for special blame.
During depositions, Carreiro stated that if Jeremy had stayed at home that afternoon, Kynara and Kristin might not have been killed. The very idea enrages Wiley. He says anyone who feels that a 14-year-old boy is going to stop a knife-wielding adult is a fool.
"If my son had been at home, I'd have two dead children, not one," says Wiley. "And I'm going to clear Jeremy's name."
Kip Wiley once described Inwood North as "not quite Leave It to Beaver Land but pretty close." The Wileys moved into the northwest Harris County subdivision in 1986, transferring from Fort Worth for Kip's job with American Glass Inc. Fair Forest Street is tucked behind a wooden fence that lines Antoine, the closest major thoroughfare. The homes on Fair Forest are modest, suburban-style houses. Yards are well-kept. Trees and brick-enclosed mailboxes line the narrow streets.
Bob Carreiro didn't live in Inwood North, but the Wileys had known him for years; they weren't exactly friends, but they were friendly. The terms of Carreiro's 1988 divorce had given him custody of Kynara every other weekend and on certain holidays. Often Kynara had been at the Wileys' house when he came to pick her up; sometimes the Wileys had let Kristin spend the weekend with Kynara at Carreiro's home in Spring.
Kynara was Carreiro's life, and he was intent on not letting the split with his wife affect his relationship with his daughter. "I wanted to give my daughter the things, the love ... that was lacking in my childhood," he said in a deposition last May. "My daughter taught me how to love."
In July 1992, summer vacation was in full swing. The community echoed with the sounds of kids making the most of the weeks between classes. During the previous two summers, Jeremy and Kristin had signed up for programs at the local YMCA, where they were under adult supervision while Kip Wiley and his wife, Rebecca, worked.
But at the beginning of the summer of '92, the Wileys gave Jeremy more responsibility. The couple decided that the 14-year-old was mature enough to stay at their four-bedroom home while they were at their jobs. Although he was not required to stay at the house all day, he was under orders to call either his mother or his stepfather if he wanted to leave to play with his friends in the neighborhood. Additionally, he was to keep an eye on Kristin.
As on most days that summer, Kristin was with her best friend, Kynara Carreiro, on Thursday, July 20. The previous night, Kristin had slept over at Kynara's house, just down the street. Kynara lived with her mother, Diane Taylor -- Bob Carreiro's ex-wife -- and her stepfather. The girls spent Thursday morning doting on Kynara's new half-brother, who had been born a few weeks earlier.
The two girls often helped each other with chores, and early that afternoon, Diane Taylor sent them to clean the Wiley home. Around 2 p.m., with the two girls at the house, Jeremy phoned his mother to ask permission to go across the street to his friend Doug McCormick's house. After getting Rebecca Wiley's okay, Jeremy left with his Nintendo and an oscillating fan. He and about eight other boys from the neighborhood then set up the fan in the McCormicks' hot, closed garage, and settled in to play a video game.
For the next hour and a half or so, the boys played Street Fighter II, the Nintendo game of the day. At one point, Jeremy went back across the street to check on the girls, then returned to the computer-generated carnage.
Around 3:45 p.m., the boys finally tired of watching the game characters bloody each other. Jeremy took his Nintendo and fan and headed home. What he found there torments him to this day.
As he entered his house, he noticed that the front door was open and the stereo was blasting. The 14-year-old placed the Nintendo atop the stereo system in the living room, then carried the fan back to his bedroom. There, on his bed, were the lifeless, bloody bodies of Kristin and Kynara.
After looking at some property near Intercontinental Airport for the possible expansion of his glass company, Kip Wiley was driving south on the North Freeway when his cellular phone rang.
"One of my employees called and said for me to call home because something bad was wrong," says Wiley. As he remembers the worst day of his life, his voice never breaks, but it occasionally trails off. "I called my wife and she said, 'Come home. Kristin's dead.' "
He remembers the next few hours -- and the next few days -- as a blur. The two girls were buried in adjacent plots; the Wileys' insurance policy paid for Kynara's burial.
"Everybody deals with grief differently," says Kip Wiley. "I chose to stay back and deal with my grief with my family." The deeply religious Wileys also found consolation in their church, the non-denominational Victory Christian Center.
Carreiro, on the other hand, transformed his tragedy into a public life. During the long investigation, while the Wileys turned inward and avoided the media spotlight, Carreiro made himself the poster parent of the victims' rights movement.
For example, on September 9, 1992, about six weeks after the double murder, Patrick Media Group donated 200 billboards. Beside a picture of the Kristin and Kynara taken shortly before their deaths, there was an offer of $40,000 for information leading to their killer's arrest.
The unveiling of the billboard campaign was designed to draw public attention. Besides the parents of the dead children, the event featured representatives of almost every law-enforcement agency with a tenuous connection to the investigation -- plus the media and anti-crime groups.
"It was a zoo," says Wiley. "Anybody with a message to stump was there. I think there was even a three-legged man there. I took one look at that and decided I didn't want any part of it, and I told Becky, 'Let's go home.' "
He was just as disturbed by the billboard campaign itself. "Imagine yourself driving down the freeway and seeing your daughter plastered across a 60-foot billboard," he explains. "It will tear your heart out."
Carreiro embraced the ad campaign, and always seemed to be giving another interview or speaking at another victims' rights rally; at one point, he very publicly enlisted the help of a California psychic. All of that was fine with Kip Wiley. What bothered Wiley, though, was the way Carreiro often used the media to criticize the Harris County Sheriff's Department.
"If I had to grade the sheriff's department on a scale of one to ten, I would give them a five," Carreiro told the Houston Chronicle during the billboard ceremony. Throughout the 19-month investigation, he expressed similar criticisms. Naturally, Carreiro's tactics did not endear him to the investigators who were trying to solve his daughter's murder.
"Did Bob Carreiro hinder the investigation?" asks a county detective. "Well, he certainly didn't help it any."
The detective, who was deeply involved in the effort to find the killer, says investigators were forced to waste time checking leads and tips that Carreiro felt were important but were usually of no value whatsoever to their probe. The problem was compounded, says the detective, by Carreiro's habit of leaking to the media information investigators had told him in confidence. Besides forcing the department to spend time answering reporters' questions, the leaks could possibly have tipped off the killer. Eventually, says the detective, the officers working the case started dealing almost exclusively with the Wileys when they needed information or wanted to test an idea. And the sheriff's investigators had a very definite idea about the identity of the girls' killer.
At the very beginning of the probe, Rex Mays caught authorities' attention. Shortly after the girls' bodies were discovered, he reported that he had seen two men jumping a nearby fence around the time of the murders. But after failing a polygraph test, Mays, who sometimes worked as Uh-Oh the Clown, admitted that he had fabricated the story.
"We felt that we knew who did it," says one investigator. "But you can't just take your feelings over to the D.A.'s office and get charges filed."
(At one point, the homicide detectives also suspected Jeremy, Kristin's half-brother. "But we knew there was no way that child could have killed those two girls," explains the investigator.)
For months, the sheriff's department engaged in a psychological battle with Mays, attempting to win his confidence and pry loose an admission of guilt. On February 10, 1994, their perseverance was rewarded. During a four-hour interview, Mays gave detectives a detailed confession.
While going about their chores, Kristin and Kynara had apparently played Christian music loud so they could hear it over the vacuum cleaner. The decibel level outraged Mays, who had lost his job earlier in the day. He entered the Wiley house through the front door and demanded that the girls turn the stereo down. In his confession, Mays claimed the girls back-talked him. In a fit of rage, he says he grabbed a knife from the Wileys' kitchen and proceeded to stab Kristin and Kynara repeatedly.
In September of last year, Mays was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to die by lethal injection. He is currently on death row and is appealing his conviction.
Not long after Mays was arrested, Kip Wiley himself became somewhat litigious. In July 1994, Wiley joined Carreiro's lawsuit against Mays and his wife.
The suit also targeted Mays' landlord and the neighborhood association for allowing Mays to reside in the neighborhood. That portion of the suit was dropped when it was determined that nothing in Mays' background would have alerted anyone to the evil of which he was capable.
Wiley received a $10 million default judgment. But because Mays doesn't have any assets, Wiley never expects to collect. "The suit against Rex wasn't for money," Wiley explains. "It was for satisfaction."
For Bob Carreiro, that satisfaction wasn't enough. He is still suing Mays, awaiting a jury trial that might award even more in damages -- though Mays is no more likely to be able to pay. Asked why he was continuing the suit, Carreiro's lawyer, Gregory Stewart, replied, "I want to drag that scumbag back to court."
Carreiro's suit against the Wileys seems like another way to hang on to his daughter's death -- though in suing them, he also has a clear financial motive.
Carreiro contends that his daughter's death resulted in part from the Wileys' negligence. And although all three members of the Wiley family -- Kip, Rebecca and Jeremy -- are cited in the suit, Carreiro focuses on Jeremy. The lawsuit alleges that the 14-year-old "chose to abandon" the girls, left them "unprotected" and did not lock the door before leaving the house to go play with his friends.
Even so, when Carreiro informed Kip Wiley of the suit, Wiley was not inclined to fight. At that point, in the summer of '94, he was preoccupied with Mays' prosecution. And in no small way, he was also still trying to deal with Kristin's death. "Compared to what I was going through at the time," says Wiley, "the lawsuit was more of an annoyance than anything else. My whole focus was to just get through the trial."
As Wiley understood Carreiro's lawsuit, Carreiro was hoping to empty the deep pockets of State Farm, which insured the Wileys' house. If the Wileys were found responsible for Kynara's death, the personal liability portion of their homeowners' policy would cover them.
Wiley asked Carreiro to have his attorney draft a letter protecting the Wileys from any damages not covered by his insurance. According to Wiley, Carreiro told him that would not be a problem: "He said, 'Ah, Kip, you know me. I'd never do a thing like that to you.' "
This June, however, in a letter to Wiley's lawyer, Carreiro's attorney rejected the deal. The same letter announced that Carreiro would seek $2.5 million.
But it's not the dollar figure that has enraged the usually mild-mannered and media-shy Kip Wiley. Because of a legal technicality, even if a jury sides with Carreiro and awards him every dollar he is asking for, Wiley's insurance company will pay the entire amount. (State Farm contends that the Wileys were not negligent and refuses to pay Carreiro's claim. So if a jury awarded Carreiro more than the policy's limit, State Farm would be liable for the extra damages.) Not coincidentally, State Farm has hired an attorney to represent the family.
No, what has Kip Wiley in a lather is the impact the lawsuit has had on his already troubled stepson, Jeremy, whom Wiley says he couldn't love more if he were his own flesh and blood. Although Garza is Jeremy's real last name, Wiley calls him Jeremy Wiley. According to Wiley, Jeremy still hasn't gotten over the shock of finding the two dead girls in his bed.
"At 14 years old," says Wiley, "this young boy walked in on two stabbed-to-death, violently murdered young girls, one of whom was his sister. The other he loved as much as his sister.
"Now, four years later, [Bob Carreiro] is coming back and stating that [Jeremy's] the reason that it happened. I think it should be pretty evident how [Jeremy] feels. He's human."
Not long after Kristin's death, Kip Wiley moved his wife and stepson to Champions Forest, a stylish neighborhood in northwest Harris County. Even a brief visit to their new home makes their religious feelings clear. Prayer books and embroidered Christian mottoes decorate the colonial-style, two-story house. Every Tuesday night, Rebecca Wiley, a pediatric nurse, hosts a religious study group there.
Despite his dark good looks, Jeremy, now a lanky 19-year-old, seems painfully shy. Unless the subject is skateboarding or cooking -- his two passions -- he appears uninterested and remote. To avoid being trapped in conversation, he picks up small, nearby objects and focuses his attention on them. Evenings and weekends, he prepares salads at a nearby Pappadeaux. After his high-school graduation next spring, he plans to attend culinary school at the University of Houston.
The last four years have understandably been difficult for Jeremy. His recollection of the murder scene is fuzzy, and he has difficulty discussing his loss and grief. According to his stepfather, the lawsuit and Carreiro's attempt to blame Jeremy for the girls' deaths has only exacerbated his inner turmoil.
In a deposition given last May, Carreiro contended that there was an agreement between the Wileys and his ex-wife that whenever his daughter was at the Wiley home, if the adult Wileys were away, it would be Jeremy's responsibility to supervise Kristin and Kynara. The Wileys say there was no formal arrangement; and the Press was unable to contact Diane Taylor, Carreiro's ex-wife.
If Jeremy had been home that afternoon, Carreiro argued, the tragedy might have been averted. "I might say that Rex Mays, seeing him now, he is not a very large man," Carreiro said at the deposition. "Jeremy is not a small boy. For [Mays] to have the opportunity to ward off three children, I think certainly would have made a difference."
Carreiro's attorney, Gregory Stewart, denied a request to interview Carreiro about the lawsuit, but Carreiro later discussed it briefly. On the telephone at his home, the truck driver offered little insight into reasons for suing the Wileys. He has no vendetta against the Wileys, he said; his fight is mainly against State Farm. And he does not think that filing a lawsuit against people who shared the same horror as himself is the least bit odd or hypocritical.
"Everybody has to have insurance to cover tragedies," explains Carreiro. "My daughter being killed in their house was certainly a tragedy. So what's so odd?"
Without elaborating, Carreiro also claims that there are reasons behind his lawsuit which he cannot now discuss. "There's a whole lot more to this lawsuit than people know about right now. And I can't talk about it right now. Some things happened. Some things were said."
He also implies that he couldn't stop the lawsuit now, even if he wanted to. "After it got rolling, it was not going to stop," Carreiro says. "You're not going to go back and tell these attorneys involved just to go ahead and close this thing down after so much work has been put into it."
Before bringing the abbreviated interview to a close, Wiley adds that if he wins the lawsuit, he plans to set up an education fund for his godchild. He would also donate some of the money to Justice for All and Parents of Murdered Children. The notion sickens Kip Wiley.
"If he wants to be the champion of victims' rights, let him do it with his own money," says Wiley. "Not blood money."
In September, the northwest chapter of Parents of Murdered Children held its monthly meeting at Grace United Methodist Church in the Heights. The gathering was dedicated to the memory of Justice for All founder Pam Lychner and her two young daughters; the three had died in the explosion of TWA Flight 800.
The guest speaker that evening was state District Judge Michael McSpadden, who recalled how Lychner became involved in the victims' rights movement. In August 1990, she was attacked by a paroled serial rapist, William David Kelley. Luckily for Lychner, her husband, Joe, was nearby. Together they were able to overpower the attacker and restrain him until the authorities arrived.
McSpadden noted that Kelley victimized Lychner twice: once by attacking her; and once by suing her and her husband for pain and suffering he allegedly endured while they held him for the police. The case was eventually dismissed, but not before the Lychners were forced to spend an agonizing year in civil court. It's hard to miss the parallel between the suit against Lychner and the suit against the Wileys.
Ironically, the night of McSpadden's talk, the meeting was filled with friends and acquaintances of Bob Carreiro -- other people whose lives had been shattered by crime, fellow crusaders for justice. Word of Carreiro's suit against the Wileys came as a surprise to most in the gathering. In general, they said only that Carreiro must have his reasons.
Randy Ertman was one exception. A bear of a man, he suffered a loss strikingly similar to Carreiro's. In June 1993, Ertman's 14-year-old daughter, Jennifer, was raped and beaten to death along with her 16-year-old friend, Elizabeth Pena. Ertman and Carreiro met at a victims' meeting about three days after Ertman's daughter had turned up missing -- and before her body had been located. The two men became good friends. If anyone in the victims' rights movement knows Bob Carreiro, it's Randy Ertman.
Like Carreiro, Ertman also filed a number of lawsuits, including one against the owner of the railroad tracks. He says he now regrets his litigious ways -- although he is still suing the liquor store that allegedly sold alcohol to his daughter's underage killers.
Ertman refuses to comment on whether he believes Carreiro is right or wrong or hypocritical for filing suit against the Wileys. But he can't imagine suing Adolph and Elizabeth Pena, whose daughter was killed along with Ertman's.
"I would never file suit against the Penas," says Ertman. "The Penas would never file suit against me. I can't understand any victim suing another victim's family. That's my answer."
Next week, lawyers for the Wiley family will go before state District Judge Tracy Christopher to argue that Bob Carreiro's lawsuit against the Wileys is without merit and should be dismissed.
"In our motion for summary judgment," says the Wileys attorney, Brian Chandler, "it's our position that it's just not foreseeable that your next-door neighbor is going to come to your house and brutally murder your daughter. It doesn't stand up in the eyes of the law, and it doesn't stand up in the eyes of common sense."
Carreiro and his attorney obviously disagree -- just one of the many differences between Kip Wiley and Bob Carreiro. Carreiro has structured his life around his daughter's death. Wiley and his family want to put their tragedy behind them and move forward; even Jeremy recently expressed a desire for counseling.
"I feel sorry for Bob," says Rebecca Wiley, "because it's like he's chasing the wind to make himself happy."
Kip Wiley's opinion is less charitable.
"He's not honoring his daughter's memory this way," he says. "You don't replace a child. But as time passes, you have to learn to live with it. I know my daughter's in Heaven. And I'd love to see her. But you go on with your life. If you don't, you become very bitter."
With that, Kip Wiley's voice begins to trail off again. He pauses for a moment and makes one last request.
"Please, don't paint me the same color as Bob Carreiro.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Houston, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.