BOBCAT MAGAZINE PREVIEW
by BILL PETERSON
“I’m in Texas State right now, working on my PhD (in criminal justice),” San Marcos Police Department Chief Howard Williams said. “I take it like an alum would. But the facts are the facts. We’ll deal with them.”
Williams is investigating an early February murder that occurred during a party at the home of a Texas State softball player. A former Texas State softball player. Selena Hernandez has been suspended from the team.
A search warrant affidavit issued in the murder investigation specified that Hernandez was concealing evidence. Williams would not say if charges will be filed against Hernandez, or anyone else, for evidence tampering or witness tampering. That call, he said, will be made by the district attorney’s office.
“We’re really not sure just yet,” Williams said. “We really have most of the story together. As you can imagine, there were a lot of people there. We did get information early on that there might be some tampering with evidence and tampering with witnesses. There’s no real rush to file on them. We’ll staff it out with the DA’s office and see how they want to proceed. There’s more than one person we’re looking at for evidence tampering and even for witness tampering.”
The Bobcats arrived in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) this year with a reputation that preceded them. The league’s coaches, having never played against the Bobcats, still picked them to win the WAC in Texas State’s only season in the league. The team’s pedigree said enough. Under head coach Ricci Woodard, the Bobcats won four of the last five regular season championships in the Southland Conference, as well as three of the last four conference tournaments, meaning the Bobcats went to the NCAA Tournament three of the last four years.
And they had almost everyone coming back from a team that had been to two straight NCAA Tournaments. Among the returners were all eight starting position players. The season was going to be sweet.
It has, instead, been overshadowed by murder, a violent, sudden murder in a chaotic situation. It has, instead, been made irrelevant. It has, instead, been very dark.
The Bobcats were 5-26 entering the final weekend of March. The connection between murder and 5-26 is not tenuous. It’s not complete, but it’s not tenuous, either. Hernandez, the Bobcats’ starting shortstop and RBI leader from a year ago, was a sophomore star who was going to help take the team somewhere much better this year.
And that must have been the thought on Feb. 2, a Saturday night in San Marcos, the last Saturday night before the start of softball season. So, there was a party where Hernandez resides, a duplex at 704 Allen Street.
What happened next is the subject of a murder investigation. The party lasted into the early morning hours of Feb. 3. That’s when the San Marcos Police Department (SMPD) received a complaint about a loud party on Allen Street. It was 12:30 a.m.
Police affidavits describe not merely a noisy party, but a horrendous situation spun out of control. Officers estimate a crowd of about 300 people. Before police even knocked on the door, they saw vehicles speeding from the scene. Officers stopped a vehicle to find Arthur Martinez, 20, of Austin, bleeding profusely from a stab wound. Another occupant of the vehicle, Adrian Shepard, 21, was bleeding from a head laceration thought to be caused by a blunt instrument.
Martinez, transported to Central Texas Medical Center by a rescue squad, died a short time later.
More officers were sent to the scene. Officers knocked on the door at 704 Allen Street, but no one answered. Meanwhile, officers heard commotion inside the residence, bottles clanging together, “bumping and thumping coming from within.” Officers saw blood droplets on a concrete path between the garage and the house, and blood smeared on the door frame to the residence. Police dispatchers attempted to telephone the residence to announce the police arrival. No one answered.
Next, at about 1 a.m., officers learned that Martinez had died. So, officers forced entry into the residence, “due to the belief that evidence was being destroyed or tampered with or otherwise disrupted.”
Inside, according to a search warrant affidavit, officers encountered numerous people who were uncooperative. Officers believed the residence was being cleaned up and evidence was being compromised in the process. They saw clear signs of struggle: damage to the furniture and the residence, blood in the carpeting, blood smears in the bathroom and a chair that still had a large amount of blood on it despite apparent attempts to have the chair cleaned.
Piecing together a story from interviews at the scene, an arrest affidavit tells the following story. Martinez and Jesse James Nichols, 20, greeted each other at the party and shook hands. Brelyn Sorrells, 20, was standing somewhere behind Nichols. A bottle was thrown from behind Martinez towards Sorrells. Fighting broke out. One witness told police that Sorrells went at Martinez with a knife, and another said it might have been a box cutter. Angel Herrera, 19, demonstrated for police Sorrells holding a knife in his right hand, swinging it up and down, stabbing Martinez. Herrera told police that she reached around Martinez to pull him back and her fingers were cut by Sorrells in that process.
It took the police most of four days to make an arrest. They charged Sorrells on Feb. 6 after a police interview. Murder, first degree felony. Bond set at $750,000.
“This investigation was complex,” Williams said when the arrest was made. “For the past four days all of our detectives worked on it. There were many witnesses who gave inconsistent statements about the event, and people were tampering with the evidence and with witnesses. I believe that our detectives did an exceptional job in detailing what happened that night. The investigation uncovered additional victims about whom we were not aware the night that it happened. Good investigations are about quality, not speed.”
No one is saying how many other Bobcat softball players were at the party. Two days after the arrest, six days after the party, the Bobcats opened their season with a tournament at the University of Houston. Woodard suspended seven players just before the tournament. Two of them, Hernandez and sophomore outfielder Brittney Garcia, are gone for good. Five other players — Anna Hernandez, Ali Akina, Timisha North, Delia Saucedo and Courtney Harris — were suspended only for the tournament.
Williams said he could not discuss specifically which witnesses were interviewed or if any of them were Texas State softball players. Asked if he could confirm or deny the presence of softball players at the party, Texas State sports information director Rick Poulter said, “I have no idea.”
So, all we really have is that there was a stabbing murder at a party in the home of a softball player, that a murder charge has been filed against a man who was in the home, and that seven players were suspended right away, two of them for good. Woodard has said that the players were suspended for “violating team rules.”
And we have this: the team is playing under a dark cloud. It’s not the same. The Bobcats scored more than two runs in only 12 of their first 33 games. Last year, the Bobcats scored more than two runs in nearly two-thirds of their games, 36 out of 56. The Bobcats also have lost by five runs or more 12 times already. Last year, the Bobcats lost by five or more only seven times all season. Even with Selena Hernandez gone, the Bobcats still have seven of their eight position starters returning from last year. But they’re not hitting nearly as well.
Anna Hernandez, a senior who was suspended during the first weekend, is batting .254 with six RBI well more than halfway into the season. Last year, Martinez batted .304 with 26 RBI. As a team, the Bobcats batted .257 last year. This year, the same team, minus one, is batting .222.
Murders and dark clouds are ominous, of course, but there are always explanations between the lines, and a clear one looms for the Bobcats. Their two pitchers from last year, Chandler Hall and Anne Marie Taylor, both are missing. Hall graduated and the Bobcats haven’t found an effective replacement. Hall was 22-8 with a 1.73 ERA last year, when she took half of the team’s starts. Taylor has been out with injury since Feb. 17. Last year, she was 17-8 with a 1.71 ERA. This year, she has made only four appearances and has a 4.03 ERA. Last season, Texas State pitchers tossed a 1.97 ERA. This season, it’s a nudge more than twice that, 3.98.
Texas State officials, including Woodard, are not commenting during the investigation, wishing for the process to play out. Williams said two aggravated assault charges have been added to the murder charge against Sorrells.
The full story of what happened on Feb. 3 is still to be told. Further details are being withheld by all parties, pending a trial. Because Sorrells can’t make bond, the state has to announce that it is ready for trial within 90 days of making the charges. That announcement would have to come then, during the first week of May. At the end of that week, the Bobcats will be at the WAC Tournament in Ruston, LA, playing for an NCAA Tournament bid.
However the Bobcats perform in that competition, whether they go away quietly or gloriously rally against adversity and win it, the season was tarnished before it started. And that’s not even the worst of it.Email | Print