‘I turned into the devil’ — (Dallas Morning News)

Original article no longer available

The Dallas Morning News

By Tim Wyatt

12:07 PM CDT on Friday, May 28, 2004

Police say man confessed to choking, stabbing Farmersville woman

McKINNEY – A 20-year-old Farmersville man accused of killing a young mother in his pickup truck this spring told police he choked her “for no reason.”
Two days after his arrest, Moises Sandoval Mendoza wrote his parents: “I don’t know what happened to me at that moment. … I turned into the devil.”
The handwritten confessions by Mr. Mendoza are part of hundreds of documents filed in court records by prosecutors as they prepare their death penalty case in the March 18 slaying of Rachelle O’Neil Tolleson, 20.

Mr. Mendoza’s defense lawyer, Juan Sanchez, said he was still reviewing the volumes of documents and had no comment. No date has been set for the capital murder trial.
Relatives reported Ms. Tolleson missing from the small frame house she rented just off the town square in Farmersville. They found her 6-month-old daughter left alone, sleeping on a bed.
After four days of searching by police, family and neighbors, a man hunting arrowheads spotted Ms. Tolleson’s badly burned body in a remote creek bed near the Collin and Hunt county line, about three miles east of town.

A friend of Mr. Mendoza’s contacted police the next day and told them he’d confessed the crime to her. Within hours of his March 24 arrest, Mr. Mendoza told investigators that he’d left a party and stopped by Ms. Tolleson’s house, just off the town square.
“Her and I were gonna go to the … [store] for cigs for her,” Mr. Mendoza wrote in a statement. “We drove a little, and for no reason I started to choke her.”
Mr. Mendoza, who declined an interview request Thursday, also told police that he choked Ms. Tolleson and then had sex with her before choking her again and “poking” her in the throat with a knife.
“During the offense … [Ms. Tolleson] asked … [Mr. Mendoza] why he was doing this, and she promised not to tell anyone what had happened,” police wrote in summarizing the interview.
Prosecutors declined to talk about the case. First Assistant District Attorney Greg Davis would say only that his office hopes to take Mr. Mendoza’s case to a jury by the end of the year.

Evidence from home

Evidence collected at Ms. Tolleson’s home raises questions about whether she willingly left with Mr. Mendoza the night she was killed.
Across from the bed where her baby was discovered, police found an open pack of cigarettes that calls into question whether Ms. Tolleson would leave with Mr. Mendoza to buy cigarettes.
Furniture, bedding and clothing were also found moved and strewn about, prompting family members and friends to remark that the young mother always kept her house neat and clean.
Statements from those who knew Ms. Tolleson and Mr. Mendoza also paint contrasting pictures about whether the two were dating after Ms. Tolleson separated from her husband, Andrew, in the months before she died.
One acquaintance told police that Mr. Mendoza pulled a knife on a man who reportedly slipped a drug into Ms. Tolleson’s drink at a party last spring. The witness said he was almost cut with the knife while trying to restrain Mr. Mendoza.
Andrew Tolleson told police he only knew Mr. Mendoza from school. However, he borrowed an aluminum baseball bat from a friend to beat up Mr. Mendoza after being told that his estranged wife may have dated their former schoolmate once this spring, according to the documents.
Mr. Tolleson declined to comment Thursday about his statements to police.
Other witnesses said they never knew Mr. Mendoza to visit Ms. Tolleson’s home.
Megan Kennedy, one of Ms. Tolleson’s friends, said Thursday that Mr. Mendoza would often talk to young women at weekend parties around Farmersville. One night, Ms. Tolleson and Mr. Mendoza left a party and went to Greenville together to buy cigarettes, Ms. Kennedy said.
But Ms. Tolleson told her friend that the two high school classmates weren’t having a love affair, Ms. Kennedy said.
“She said she didn’t like him like that,” said Ms. Kennedy, adding that her friend “told me everything.”
Always near child
More than 20 friends and family members interviewed by police agreed that Ms. Tolleson was not one to leave her child alone in the house.
“I never saw her more than five feet from … [the baby] without someone else watching her,” Tim Holland wrote in a March 24 statement. “In my opinion, Moises and Rachelle were acquaintances and nothing else.”
Many of the documents filed by prosecutors also point to Mr. Mendoza’s past violent behavior, including an attack on family members, threats to acquaintances in Farmersville, and two armed robberies in Dallas last year that had not gone to trial before his arrest this spring.
The files also describe a psychiatric examination in October in which a doctor diagnosed Mr. Mendoza as being depressed and prescribed an anti-depressant.
A report from the exam stated Mr. Mendoza did not have any suicidal or homicidal thoughts at the time.
But in what appears to be a suicide note, dated March 26 and addressed to his parents, Mr. Mendoza repents and takes responsibility for the death before stating: “I don’t know that when you find this note I will be alive or dead.”
Jailers have no record that Mr. Mendoza has made any attempt to kill himself, said Lt. John Norton, a spokesman for the Collin County sheriff’s office. Mr. Mendoza was put on suicide watch shortly after being booked into jail but has since been moved to a single cell, he said.
Mr. Mendoza’s parents have not been available to speak about the charges leveled against their son.
During interviews with police, Mercedes Mendoza told investigators she noticed her son’s anger grow out of control for the last two years.
“I believe that Moises has a psychological problem with his anger,” she wrote in a statement shortly after his arrest. “Last year his anger increased. Moises would become angry at himself and told me that he wanted to die.”
Staff writer Roy Appleton contributed to this report.  E-mail rappleton@dallasnews.com

Texas Court of Criminal Appears upholds Mendoza’s capital murder conviction

McKinney Courier-Gazette

 By Danny Gallagher

 Posted: Wednesday, November 5, 2008 12:00 am

Moises Mendoza fails to convince a higher court to grant him a new trial for the capital murder of Rachelle O’Neil Tolleson more than four years ago.Moises Sandoval Mendoza has been sitting on Texas Death Row since July of 2005 and will remain there unless a higher court overturns his capital murder conviction.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overruled all 81 points of Mendoza’s appeal and affirmed a Collin County district jury’s decision to convict him of capital murder and sentence him to die by lethal injection, according to an opinion filed by the Appeals court on Wednesday.

Mendoza was found guilty of the capital murder of Rachelle O’Neil Tolleson, 20, of Farmersville, whom he strangled, raped and stabbed in March 2004. Mendoza tried to dispose of her body by burning and dumping her in an eastern Collin County creek bed.

According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Mendoza, who is currently on Death Row, became the 12th defendant sentenced to the death penalty in Collin County since 1976. First Assistant District Attorney Greg Davis characterized as “one of the most violent, sadistic men I have ever encountered” during the punishment phase of his capital murder trial.

Mendoza’s attorney submitted a 165-page appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in September of 2007 and asked the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to “reverse judgment of the trial court and remand for a new trial” while the Collin County District Attorney’s Office’s rebuttal asks the state court to affirm Mendoza’s conviction and sentence.

The appeal fired a scatter shot of accusations at the Collin County DA’s case and prosecution of Mendoza in the hopes one would cause a large enough hole to force the higher court to return the case to the Collin County courts. The appeal included 81 points of attention on various aspects of the case from the initial investigation to the prosecution and conviction phase of Mendoza’s capital murder case.

The appeal claimed the State did not obtain enough evidence to support claims that Mendoza broken into Tolleson’s home and then kidnapped and raped Tolleson on the night of her death, a contention the appeals court didn’t buy.

“Although the appellant claims that all of his conduct with Tolleson was consensual until he inexplicably decided to murder her in his car,” the court opinion read, “the evidence at trial paints a different picture.”

Examples of evidence includes a half pack of cigarettes left at her home while Mendoza claimed she and him left the home to buy another pack and Tolleson’s infant daughter who had been left behind at the home.

The appeal also claimed the State failed to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Mendoza would be a future dangerous to prisoners and society at large. The court overruled the appeal point citing presented evidence such as Mendoza’s past school behavior from former teachers, an attempted rape and an assault during a backyard party, robberies where victims identified him as one of the suspects and records of weapon making, assaulting and refusing to take medication while in the Collin County Detention Center’s custody.

The appeal also tried to throw the confession Mendoza gave to the Texas Rangers and the Collin County Sheriff’s Office by claiming Mendoza thought he had been called to talk about the extraneous aggravated robbery charges out of Dallas County. The court ruled law enforcement officials can talk to a suspect about an unrelated offense and administer his Miranda warning during an interview and only the suspect can prevent himself from waiving his privileges, the opinion read.

Mendoza can now submit his appeal to the Texas Supreme Court for further review. State court records show the appeal has not been filed as of Wednesday.

Contact Danny Gallagher at dgallagher@acnpapers.com.