Left For Dead

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Arnold asked Tracey if she could identify the gunman. When she said no, Arnold moved to dismiss the case since there was no evidence connecting his client. Tracey never saw the gunman's face, and there were no fingerprints on the weapon. But Kevin's prints were found on the car, and there were confessions from Robert Hidalgo and Kevin himself. Arnold's motion was overruled.

Arnold grilled both Smith and Sergeant L.D. Foltz about whether they had employed a "good cop, bad cop" routine to get his client to confess. "I've seen it on television," Foltz said, but he said he had never used it or seen it used at HPD.

Arnold tried to impeach Tracey's testimony because during her first statement she was confused and thought the shooter was a "colored kid." Kevin isn't black. Considering the morphine and the trauma Tracey had been through, Foltz said, her temporary memory loss wasn't unusual.

Kevin's mother, Mayra Guerrero, testified that her son borrowed her van and left the house at 10 p.m. Saturday and didn't come home until 6 a.m. Sunday. She didn't know where he went.

Monday morning Kevin clasped his hands in his lap, looked straight at his lawyer and said that he did not shoot Tracey Deel. Under oath, Kevin said he went to Jack In the Box with a girl named Theresa (who never surfaced to support him) and then stayed at Beatriz Cantu Gonzalez's trailer until about 5:45 a.m. This was the first time Kevin had mentioned an alibi.

Kevin maintained that he was framed. He said Foltz beat him on the head ten or 11 times, burned his arms with electrical wires and told him he'd never see his baby, Brianna, again. "So he could have gotten you to confess to the Oklahoma City bombing or the Jon-Benet Ramsey murder?" Wisner asked. Yes, Kevin said, he would have said anything in order to get home to his child. "Any father would." Kevin said Foltz framed him just to close the case. "He's gotten sick of convicting guilty people, so now he convicts innocent people?" Wisner asked. Yes, Kevin said, the officers gave him a script and he recited it. "Are you really that smart?" Wisner asked.

Wisner played the 19-minute confession tape, stopping to ask Kevin who told him to say what and why. "Have you taken any acting classes?" Wisner asked. "You're doing a fabulous job of acting like someone who shot her." Kevin nodded, saying, "My mom said I should've been in theatrics. This looks like the perfect statement."

But the confession is peppered with details Kevin could not have known unless he had been there. How did he know Tracey drank Bacardi? In court she just said rum and Coke. How did he know she had a Harley Davidson billfold? How did he know the gun was at Robert's house? How did he know that Robert had kept Tracey's credit card but had burned Tracey's driver's license?

"I should have been an actor," Kevin repeated. He said the police told him they had found the gun, the card and a smoky-smelling wallet at Robert's house.

"Do you realize that Foltz was executing the search warrant while they were interviewing you?" Wisner asked.

The jury sentenced Kevin to life in prison.

"Maybe we can sleep tonight," Tracey's mother said. Kevin's mother sat in the hallway, curled in a fetal position. She cried and stared out the window as her husband and friends raged that the white media had already executed Kevin. Antonio Rivas, Kevin's father, was wearing jeans and an untucked Polo with holes underneath the arms. He said Kevin was treated the same as Gary Graham. He thought Kevin was targeted because he is poor and Hispanic and can't defend himself. "This isn't justice," he said.

Tracey has six guitars she can't play because bullets shattered two knuckles on her left hand. She needs three separate surgeries on that hand alone, new teeth and a prosthetic eye (she wants a blue one). She still has a bullet in her chest, one in her left breast and one lodged between her sinus and her brain; she has fragments in her collarbone, stomach lining and the back of her head. Ben Taub considers it "invasive surgery" to remove bullets that aren't affecting major organs, so the surgeons left the lead where it landed. The bullets roll beneath Tracey's skin. "They burn me," she says.

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Wendy Grossman
Contact: Wendy Grossman