Sheriff fails to return phone calls about possible hate crime in Big Bend area

Posted on 10 Dec 2009 at 6:46pm
Daniel Martinez
Daniel Martinez

There isn’t much new information today in the kidnapping and sexual assault of a teenager in the Big Bend area of Texas on Sunday. Based on information obtained by Dallas Voice over the last few days, the newspaper is classifying the incident as a possible anti-gay hate crime. My report from yesterday has been picked up by Queerty and Towleroad, two national LGBT blogs. On a side note, Queerty didn’t even credit Dallas Voice, as if they just stumbled on the monthly Big Bend Gazette by accident.

Anyhow, Brewster County Sheriff Ronny Dodson has failed to return multiple phone messages left by Dallas Voice since the newspaper learned about the crime Wednesday morning. A woman who answered the phone on Thursday afternoon said the sheriff was out of the office and to try back Friday morning. The woman said there’s no other way of getting in touch with the sheriff, and that he’s the only one who can release information about the case.

I’m willing to give the sheriff a little time and the benefit of the doubt here, but let’s just hope he isn’t ignoring my phone calls because he’s trying to cover up a brutal hate crime for PR reasons. If you’d like to call the Brewster County Sheriff’s Department and express your concern about this case, the main number is 432-837-3488.

Both The Alpine Avalanche newspaper and Midland’s NewsWest 9 are reporting today that the victim is 18, not 19 as previously reported, and that he is a student. NewsWest 9 has also posted a photo of one of the suspects, Daniel Martinez (shown above). Martinez, who has a lengthy arrest record, is  charged with sexual assault. The other suspect, 27-year-old Kristopher Buchanan, is being held on an outstanding warrant but is also expected to face charges in Sunday’s attack.

I’ve been unable to confirm rumors that the sexual assault involved the victim being sodomized with a tire iron. According to media reports, the victim met the two suspects at the Boathouse bar in Terlingua Ghost Town, near the Texas-Mexico border and the Big Bend National Forest. The suspects reportedly hit the teen over the back of the head and kidnapped him. The suspects drove the victim in his own car to a remote location in south Brewster County, before sexually assaulting him and burning the car. They then took him to a private residence, where they again sexually assaulted him before he managed to escape.

The victim crossed 3 miles of harsh desert terrain on foot to a highway, where he was eventually found by a sheriff’s deputy at about 1 a.m. Monday. NewsWest 9 reports that the victim was bleeding and bruised, and that he was taken to Big Bend Regional Medical Center in Alpine, where it was confirmed that he’d been sexually assaulted. He was treated and released.

Again, there are more questions than answers about this case at this point, but I think the public has a right to know what’s going on, so I would urge the Brewster County Sheriff’s Office to come forward and provide more information as soon as possible. As Randall Terrell from Equality Texas noted yesterday, this all sounds eerily similar to the Matthew Shepard case. It also brings back memories of Brandon Teena, the transgender man whose murder was the subject of the film, “Boy’s Don’t Cry.”

Brewster County reportedly is the largest county in the U.S. in terms of land area, but it’s very sparsely populated. The area where the victim is kidnapped is primarily a tourist destination. John Waters, publisher of The Big Bend Gazette, told me yesterday that residences in the southern part of the county are typically miles apart and don’t even have addresses.

“It’s absolutely shocking,” Waters said of the crime. “I have never encountered a case as violent as this. In the seven years that I’ve been here and doing this, we have had one murder and prior to that one murder, no one could really remember when the last murder was.”

Waters said there are LGBT people in Brewster County, some out and some closeted. But he said he doesn’t think Big Bend is a hostile place for them.

“If you can survive in the desert and figure out how to make a living and figure out how to deal with 115 degree temperatures, nobody cares about the rest,” Waters said.

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