Kyle THE FATHER of the star eyewitness says justice wasn’t done, but that it’s over now. But for county road worker Joe Garcia and the two Anglo high school students accused of running him down, it isn’t over, and isn’t likely to be for a long time. Garcia still suffers the physical effects of the controversial incident which put him into an Austin intensive care ward last April, while 17year-old Alan Holt and 16-year-old Michael Shane Dees must deal with the stigma and unrelenting questioning associated with a case which, in many people’s minds, remains unresolved despite a jury verdict. In truth, even for young Susan Villareal, the pivotal witness, the aftershocks of that April evening linger. “They look at me like, ‘What are you doing coming in here and stirring up all this trouble like this,’ ” Villareal said during a brief interview in mid-January. “I’d like to move, really. I hope to move soon to Austin.” Joe Garcia and the others first made the local papers shortly after Garcia was struck by a pickup truck the evening of April 7 while bicycling along a farmto-market road just outside of Kyle, a town of about 2,500 20 miles south of Austin. The truck that struck Garcia carried two youths, both Anglos from nearby Hays Consolidated High School; one of the boys is a grandson of Kyle Justice of the Peace James Holt, Sr. That event set the stage for a local drama still in serialization: it set the stage for a year of events that would test how the Anglo and Hispanic Cyndy Slovak and Jeff Barton are copublishers of the Onion Creek Free Press. Barton is a sixth generation resident of Hays County. This article relied partly on court reports from Free Press reporter Sheri Sehneyer. communities view each other in Kyle and the quality of justice in Hays County and, to some extent, throughout rural Texas. “Personally, I think those two boys committed a crime and got away with it,” says Susan’s father, Art Villareal, who also testified at the trial. “I think it [the case] was poorly prepared and poorly presented to the jury. The district attorney did not get his ducks in a row. It makes me wonder if he really wanted to.” Not everyone in Kyle feels as Villareal does, of course. Judge Holt’s family has a long history in Kyle Holt won re-election easily in 1982 and a good portion of the community, especially among the town’s Anglo minority and the members of the socially dominant First Baptist Church, believes the Holts have been as much victims of the incident as Garcia, what with the embarrassment of newspaper stories and the pressures of legal fees and court appearances. To demonstrate their support, more than a score of Holt sympathizers took off three days from work to sit through the whole of Alan’s trial, offering psychological and sometimes vocal support during the proceedings. In addition, sheriff’s deputies sheltered the Holts as much as possible from what they considered a hostile press, while court employees and courthouse officials exchanged pleasantries with their old acquaintances, Judge Holt and his family. That was in stark contrast to Garcia, who sat alone and confused through much of the trial, on medication as a result of his injuries and suffering from partial amnesia. Holt’s trial left a number of contradictions unresolved. But from police reports and testimony at the trial, two pictures can be pieced together. After the collision, the two high school students drove away from the scene, while Garcia lay injured at the side of the road. All parties seem to agree on that much, though from there on the stories diverge violently, drawing much of Kyle to one side or the other. Holt and his attorney and the Department of Public Safety officer who was at the scene present a version that goes something like this. Garcia was bicycling along Farm-to-Market Road 150, taking up much of the road, when Holt and Dees turned onto the road, heading east into town from the high school. As their pickup pulled around Garcia, a car rounded the curve from the opposite direction. As the truck moved back into its lane to avoid the car, Garcia swerved in front of it and was struck. Seeing that someone was injured, the boys raced for help, naturally heading for Holt’s grandfather’s office. Since then, supporters say the boys have been maligned by the press and made victims of a sort of reverse discrimination. The happenings, as described by eyewitness Susan Villareal and others who have become involved on Garcia’s behalf, differ starkly in almost every detail. This side of the story tells of two youths who stopped to harass a young athletic Hispanic, who threatened and shortly thereafter ran him over, who then left the scene not to seek help for Garcia but help from influential relatives and friends for themselves. This side of the story speaks in terms of good ol’ boy networks, coverups, subtle ethnic prejudice, and bitterness. Garcia’s attorney, former Travis County Justice of the Peace Mack Martinez, believes race was a key factor, blaming the incident, in part, on “institutional racism.” But even in the Mexican American community not everyone sees the case in such brown and white terms. Juan Palomo, now the Central American correspondent for the Houston Post and a former managing editor of two nowdefunct publications, the Hays County Citizen and La Otra Voz, does not doubt that the two Anglos may have received preferential treatment, but he sees the case more in terms of class structure and small-town relationships. Palomo points out that the basic battles over race and minority representation were fought in Hays County in the 1970s, when rebels broke away from the Democratic Party establishment to form winning coalitions of college students and professors \(from Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, Mexican Americans, and blacks. Today the college students have turned mostly Update on Garcia Case \(TO, Trying Times in Hays County By Jeff Barton and Cyndy Slovak 1 2 FEBRUARY 24, 1984
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