HOUSTON – In June 1992, six people were shot inside a southwest Houston home in what police believe was a drug-related robbery.
Four of the victims died, including a woman who was 7 months pregnant.
Thursday evening in Huntsville one of three people convicted of the murders is scheduled to die by lethal injection.
“I just want this to be over. I already carried this for so many years. I’m tired,” said Rachel Tovar.
Rachel was one of two people who survived the shooting. She remembers being at the next-door neighbor’s house when she saw the lights in her home turning on and off.
“As I walked across and was going in my house, I felt a gun on my back and he said, ‘Keep going because we already have your family inside. You scream or anything, we’re going to shoot you right here,’” Rachel said.
Tovar, her husband Jose, her son Frank Farias, her 7-month pregnant daughter-in-law Jessica Quinones and family friends Nicolas Cortez and Audrey Brown were bound with bed sheets and taken to separate rooms inside the home on Brownstone Lane in southwest Houston.
“They just kept asking for money and money,” said Rachel.
Police reports read all six people were then shot in the back of the head. Rachel miraculously survived.
It hit, cracked my skull and it lodged in there between my cracked skull and my skin,” Rachel said of the bullet. “When I came to, the first thing I was looking for was my kids. I was looking for Frank. I was looking for Jessica.”
Rachel said she remembers trying to perform CPR on both her son and Jessica.
“I gave my son mouth-to-mouth, and I could hear him still breathing. I said, ‘Hold on baby, hold on,’” Rachel said.
During an initial interview with police, Rachel was evasive as to why her family was targeted. Rachel was first interviewed in the hospital and detectives recorded that interview.
“Does your husband deal in drugs?” an officer is heard asking Rachel.
“I know he uses it, but I don’t know if he was ever dealing in them,” she said.
“Did he go to Mexico to pick up some drugs?” a detective asks.
“No, he had my daughters with him, he took them to see my in-laws,” Rachel said.
In July 1992, Rachel then gave a sworn statement to police admitting her husband had been dealing drugs since at least 1989. According to the statement, Rachel said she started helping her husband sell drugs because “he got into debt with some people.” Rachel also told police at that time she and her husband were separated, but he would still come to her house on a regular basis.
In 1992, Rachel told police she was selling marijuana and cocaine to two men known as “Red” and “Squirt.” Court records indicate those are the nicknames for Marion Dudley and Arthur Brown, respectively.
Dudley, Brown and a third man, Antonia Dunson, were all convicted of the murders.
Dudley was given the death penalty and executed in 2006.
Dunson was sentenced to life in prison and Brown is awaiting execution.
Rachel identified Brown and Dudley as two of the men who attacked the family.
Prosecutors said Dunson received a life sentence because he was the getaway driver.
All three are from Tuscaloosa, Alabama and police said they fled the state following the murders.
“It was due to drugs, we hadn’t seen them for a while,” Rachel said during a recent interview with KPRC 2.
“Had they bought from you before?” asked KPRC 2 Investigator Robert Arnold.
“Yeah, they had bought before,” she said.
“So did he owe them money, or did he owe them a product?” asked Arnold.
“Nope, he went to go get the product that they wanted,” Rachel said. “There’s no doubt in my mind they were there, they were there. They were the ones that did this to my family and myself.”
Brown launched multiple appeals over the years. Testimony from a firearms examiner positively linking two weapons found with Brown to the murders was later determined to be “false or misleading,” according to appellate court documents. However, Brown failed to win a retrial. A split decision by justices with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that while the firearms evidence did not link Brown as the shooter, he was still identified by eyewitnesses as being present during the murders and therefore culpable through the “law of parties.”
Defense attorneys also argued evidence exonerating Brown was withheld by prosecutors. Brown’s attorneys argued Rachel’s other son, who was not in the house at the time of the murders, gave a videotaped statement to police that ‘Red’ was actually another known drug dealer from Tuscaloosa by the name of Terrell Hill. Brown’s original defense team also argued Hill was possibly behind the murders.
Harris County prosecutor Josh Reiss said that interview does not exonerate Brown and that testimony during the original trial established Hill was in Tuscaloosa the night of the murders. Reiss also said Brown’s prior defense teams were aware of this video.
Defense attorneys from the Office of Capital and Forensic Writs were appointed to Brown’s case last year after he had been without counsel since a 2017 appeal failed in the courts. This week defense attorney Kelsey Peregoy asked a judge to withdraw Brown’s execution date so DNA testing could be conducted on the bed sheets used to tie up the six victims.
Peregoy argued advances in technology known as “Touch DNA” or “Trace DNA” would determine if Brown handled the bedsheets. Reiss argued that technology had been available since 2016 and was never requested during prior appeals. Reiss called the request a delay tactic and said requesting such testing eight days before a scheduled execution “smacks of bad faith.”
Peregoy also said medical records indicating Rachel had brain damage that could impact memory and the ability of the brain to receive visual information were not given to attorneys on a timely basis. Reiss said it was well known the surviving victims were taken to the hospital and defense attorneys could have requested those records for themselves. Reiss also said when Rachel and the other victim were discharged from the hospital doctors noted they were “neurologically intact.”
Judge Natalia Cornelio denied the request to withdraw the execution date. Another recent appeal sent to the Court of Criminal Appeals was also dismissed.
Following the latest court hearing, Jessica Quinones’ mother, Graciela Quinones, spoke publicly for the first time.
“I’m really happy because my daughter Jessica got justice. I’m sad still, but I’m really happy because God helped me go through all of this,” she said in regard to the judge’s decision not to withdraw Brown’s execution date.
The Quiñones family released the following statement:
“Today is neither a day of joy nor celebration for our family. It is a day of profound relief and gratitude. After thirty years of anguish and uncertainty, we are finally able to rest knowing the monster who destroyed so many lives will never again torment the body or soul of another.
“Our family is at peace knowing that every doubt has been addressed and every decision has been righteous. We pray that the family of Arthur Brown Jr. will find this peace as well and that the faith of all people in our system of justice will be reaffirmed.
“Today, we especially remember our beloved Jessica and her unborn daughter Alyssa and are relieved that they can at last rest in peace. You will be in our hearts always.
“We are most grateful to God for sustaining us through this extended ordeal and guiding all those entrusted with the responsibility for judgement and the duty to see this to the end. We especially want to acknowledge Assistant District Attorney Joshua Reiss who not only worked tirelessly for years to see that justice was done; he has been a constant source of assurance and comfort for our family as well. Thank you to Janice Seager and the TDCJ Victim Services division for 30 years of support. Thank you to all those who have supported us with your words, deeds, and prayers.”
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