September 29, 2007

Teen says fugitive admitted killing UNT student

Teen says fugitive admitted killing UNT student
Star-Telegram Staff Writer
Fri, Sep. 28, 2007

The Goodwin Family

Handout photo of 2006 Bowie High School graduate Melanie Goodwin, a 19-year-old whose body was found in Carrollton on Tuesday.

The Carrollton teenager arrested Thursday as part of the investigation into the killing of a 19-year-old Arlington girl this week is accused of providing the money and a gasoline can that was used in an attempt to cover up the crime, according to an arrest warrant affidavit released Friday afternoon.

Donovan R. Young, 19, was being held on suspicion of tampering with evidence.

Police are seeking 20-year-old Ernesto Pina Reyes of Denton in connection with the death of Melanie Goodwin, a Bowie High School graduate who was a sophomore at the University of North Texas in Denton.

"We're hopeful he is close. We are hopeful he...wants to come in or at least somehow make contact with us, either directly or through a family member or a friend, and come talk to us and give us his side," said Sgt. John Singleton of the Carrollton police department. Police are asking the public to call a tip line, 972-466-4775, with information about the case.

Authorities found Goodwin's body in Carrollton early Tuesday. The Dallas County medical examiner's office said she died of multiple blunt-force injuries. Her body had been burned.

Young told detectives Thursday night that Reyes showed up at his apartment Tuesday between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. asking for help, according to the affidavit.

Reyes told Young that, "he killed someone, didn't mean to and needed to get rid of her body," the affidavit states.

Young told police he then saw a dead woman in the back of a red 2002 Saturn Reyes was driving. He then told police that he gave Reyes gas money and a gas can to put it in, the affidavit states.

Reyes then told Young that he would have to go back to Young's apartment after he finished because he had nowhere to go.

After leaving, Reyes returned to Young's apartment one to three hours later. He explained to Young that he had burned the woman's body, the affidavit states.

Both men went to sleep before taking Goodwin's car to the 2100 block of Marsh Lane in Carrolton "to blow it up," the affidavit states.

The car was found later in a different location along Dallas Drive in Denton.

Young and Reyes live less than a quarter mile from each other in Denton, according to addresses listed in their court records.

Young has been charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession twice, according to Denton County court records. He received deferred adjudications, meaning a conviction was not to appear on his record as long as he completed terms of the probation.

On Friday, an assistant district attorney filed a motion asking that Young's probation be revoked and that a judge enter findings of guilty against him in the marijuana cases. One of those motions says Reeves didn't do community service and had a urine test that was positive for marijuana on Sept. 4.

Police said it appears Reyes did not know Goodwin. According to an arrest warrant affidavit released Thursday, a clerk at a Denton QuikTrip saw Reyes asking a woman matching Goodwin's description for a ride about 1:40 a.m. Tuesday.

A little over two hours later, the surveillance video, from a Carrollton business near the site where the burned body was found, captured Reyes driving up in Goodwin's car, according to the affidavit.

Carrollton police Sgt. John Singleton said Thursday afternoon that detectives are working with other law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. marshal's office, to find Reyes. They released a driver's license photo of him and asked anyone with information on his whereabouts to contact local police.

According to the affidavit, police traced calls that Reyes made from a telephone at the convenience store to an acquaintance who identified him as the man seen with Goodwin. That person also told police that Reyes had singed hair and burns on his forearms.

Criminal history

According to court records, Reyes was indicted on a charge of burglary of a building in February 2006 in Denton County. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail, three years' probation and given deferred adjudication, meaning the conviction does not appear on his record as long as he completed terms of the probation.

Then, in early February, Reyes was arrested on a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge and was later released. A Denton County assistant district attorney filed a motion April 12 to revoke his probation and enter a guilty finding on the burglary.

That document says Reyes failed to fulfill the terms of his probation by not completing a drug education program ordered by the court, by failing to attend weekly counseling, by not completing four hours of community service weekly and by possessing marijuana. He was back in the Denton County Jail in late April.

While being held there, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement placed a hold on Reyes, who was born in Mexico but has U.S. permanent resident status, according to officials and police records. The agency took custody of him June 20, jail officials said.

Carl Rusnok, a spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in a prepared statement Thursday that the agency eventually released Reyes because his crime was not a deportable offense for legal residents.

Reyes returned to Denton County court Aug. 2 and was sentenced to 180 days in jail on the burglary charge. He was released Aug. 26, according to jail records.

Prayers for family

On Wednesday night, more than 400 people gathered at an Arlington church to pray for Goodwin's family and remember her. She was a graduate of Arlington's Bowie High School and was active in Theatre Arlington.

Patti Diou, former director of Theatre Arlington, met Goodwin about 10 years ago. Over the years, Goodwin was a constant figure for the group, helping with theater camp, setting up children's productions and working the box office.

Staff writers Eva-Marie Ayala, Mitch Mitchell and Domingo Ramirez Jr. contributed to this report.

Suspect at large

Carrollton police issued an arrest warrant late Wednesday for Ernesto Pina Reyes, 20, of Denton. He is wanted on suspicion of murder in the death of Melanie Goodwin, 19, of Arlington, police said in a news release.

Description: Six feet tall, 245 pounds, black hair and brown eyes. Last seen wearing a white striped shirt, short pants and white tennis shoes, according to police.

Seen with a woman matching Goodwin's description about 1:40 a.m. Tuesday at a Denton QuikTrip in the 3700 block of south Interstate 35E, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

Left the QuikTrip with Goodwin in a red 2002, two-door Saturn with Texas license plates Z57-WBT, police have said. The car was found Wednesday near Dallas Drive in Denton, police said.

Captured on surveillance camera about 4 a.m. in the 3200 block of Keller Springs Road in Carrollton, according to the affidavit.

Have a tip? Anyone with information is asked to contact the Carrollton Police Department at 972-466-4775.

Traci Shurley, 817-548-5494

September 15, 2007

Hospital weighs charity care for illegal immigrants

Nonemergency services for illegal immigrants debated

08:24 PM CDT on Saturday, September 15, 2007
By JEFF MOSIER / The Dallas Morning News

A poor illegal immigrant who goes to the John Peter Smith Hospital emergency room in Fort Worth gets the same care at the same price as any other indigent resident.

The Rev. Sergio Diaz is working to expand health care services available for illegal immigrants in Tarrant County. But the same person who goes to a JPS clinic for nonemergency treatment is often faced with a hefty bill. Unlike other large urban public hospital systems in Texas, JPS excludes illegal immigrants from its charity program that provides preventive healthcare.

Trying to balance politics, medicine and money, the Tarrant County Hospital Board of Managers will debate and possibly decide Tuesday whether to spend millions to provide free or low-cost nonemergency medical care to thousands of illegal immigrants.

The Rev. Sergio Diaz of Iglesia San Miguel, an Episcopal church in Fort Worth, said he has been fighting for this issue because of the damage caused by inadequate health care. He said members of his church – many of them illegal immigrants – can't get preventive health care and that some have died from complications from treatable diseases such as diabetes.

"This touches my heart because most of my people are immigrants," said Mr. Diaz, a member of Allied Communities of Tarrant. "I've seen a lot of people suffering."

Health care has become a major part of the national debate about illegal immigration, and the costs even led Dallas County officials to send bills to Mexico and other countries demanding payment for some of its expenses at Parkland Memorial Hospital.

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The debate has also been simmering for more than a year in Tarrant County, where Allied Communities of Tarrant, a coalition of churches and social-justice activists, has pushed for the expansion of charity care. At the same time, a local conservative group favoring a crackdown on illegal immigration has been urging the board to retain the existing policy.

Dennis Killy, a member of the Tarrant Alliance for Responsible Government, said expanding cheap health care to illegal immigrants is an insult to citizens and to those who came to the United States legally. It simply rewards those who ignore federal law, he said.

"Where does it end?" Mr. Killy said. "When do we stop paying our tax money for something we're getting nothing for?"

Mr. Killy said he believes a significant majority of board members support his group's position and would not change the JPS policy. Officials with Allied Communities of Tarrant said they think it's going to be a closer vote.

Three board members, Erma C. Johnson Hadley, Dan Serna and Ronnie W. Coulson, all declined to comment on how they might vote.

"It's my obligation to leave my mind open," Mr. Serna said.

Mrs. Johnson Hadley, board chairwoman, said this is a difficult decision that generates strong opinions and mixed emotions among many people. She said she met with Sen. John Cornyn and told him that this is something that needs to be addressed in Washington.

"We feel somewhat put out that we're having to deal with a federal issue," she said.

Differing figures

People supporting a tougher stance on illegal immigration see this as a critical financial issue. They worry that a change in policy will cost taxpayers dearly.

The cost of this possible expansion, however, depends on who's adding the numbers.

The hospital district hired Phase 2 Consulting of Austin to conduct a study, which was released in July.

Estimating the number of illegal immigrants in Tarrant County at 107,000, the study calculated that expanding the charity program would cost the hospital district an additional $41.3 million right now. That number would increase to $114.4 million by 2017, according to the study.

Allied Communities of Tarrant conducted its own study in February that came to a dramatically different conclusion. Quoting 18th-century literary figure Samuel Johnson and a passage from the Bible's book of Leviticus in the introduction, the alternative study estimated the cost to be between $2 million and $4.2 million added to the hospital district's $600 million-plus budget.

Parkland officials estimated their cost for nonemergency care for illegal immigrants was $22.4 million in the past year – about halfway between the two Tarrant County estimates.

Patricia Gaffney, a member of Allied Communities of Tarrant who helped research and write the report, challenged some of the basic assumptions of the Phase 2 study. She said that study projects a 56 percent increase in Tarrant County's illegal immigrant population in the next decade even though federal reports show that illegal immigration is decreasing.

Ms. Gaffney also said the Phase 2 study overestimates the number of illegal immigrants who would use the service. Many are wary of government programs because of their immigration status, she said.

Mr. Killy said he is more likely to believe an independent, third-party report than one created by a group advocating for one side of the issue.

Dave McElwee, another member of Tarrant Alliance for Responsible Government, said that aside from the immediate cost, he also worries about the message that expanded health care would send.

"I think there ought to be programs for the indigent but not for those in the country illegally," he said. "All this does is act as a magnet for other illegals."

No extra funds now

If the board votes Tuesday to expand health care, it's not clear how quickly such a change would be implemented, JPS senior vice president Robert Earley said. He said the board and Tarrant County Commissioners have already approved the 2007-08 budget, and no funds are set aside for additional health care costs for illegal immigrants.

This is the second time this issue has come up for Tarrant County. For part of 2004, the board opened up all its programs to illegal immigrants. JPS officials were uncertain about whether a new state law allowed or mandated them to provide nonemergency charity services to illegal immigrants. Mr. Early said a ruling by the Texas attorney general and statements of intent from the sponsor clarified that the law didn't require the expansion.

At the time, JPS officials said the expanded program cost them up to $4 million for six months. Mr. Earley said the participation was probably limited three years ago because the program wasn't actively promoted by the hospital district and there were questions about how long it would last.

The board voted in August 2004 to make immigration status a factor for the JPS charity nonemergency care.

Officials with Allied Communities of Tarrant and the Texas Hospital Association also said most urban public hospitals in the state don't limit health care service because of immigration status, but neither had conducted a comprehensive study.

Dr. Ron Anderson, chief executive of Parkland Memorial Hospital, which does not exempt illegal immigrants from its charity programs, said the decision by JPS did not affect his system.

But he said that it makes sense to get all low-income residents preventive health care in neighborhood clinics. When he came to Parkland in 1982, the system had no clinics and about 182,000 emergency-room visits annually.

Since then, the system opened neighborhood clinics countywide, and the emergency-room visits fell to 145,000 even though the population has nearly doubled.

"The truth is, if you don't provide this care in the clinic, you'll provide this service in the emergency room," Dr. Anderson said.

Two studies were created this year estimating the cost of expanding nonemergency health care to illegal immigrants in the John Peter Smith Hospital system. One was created by Allied Communities of Tarrant, which supports the expansion, and the other by Phase 2 Consulting on behalf of JPS.

ACT study
Current cost $2 million to $4.2 million
Estimated number of illegal immigrants 96,800
Percentage of illegal immigrants projected to use the new service 27 percent

Phase 2 study
Current cost $41.3 million
Estimated number of illegal immigrants 107,000
Percentage of illegal immigrants projected to use the new service 7 percent

Should the Texas State Legislature pass immigration enforcement laws in 2009?