Big Trouble in Little Cambodia

Hurricane Harvey decimated a small Texas Cambodian community’s houses and farmland. When white far-right groups arrived to help them rebuild, tensions mounted between FEMA and the volunteers, whose vocal, Neo-Confederate politics raised many questions about what they wanted with a group of Buddhists.

Source: Texas Observer
Published: Jan 22, 2018
Length: 11 minutes (2,901 words)

The First Time Texas Killed One of My Clients

An attorney remembers the life of a death row inmate killed by the state of Texas.

Source: Texas Observer
Published: Mar 11, 2016
Length: 19 minutes (4,884 words)

Reckoning With Rosie

Thirty-eight years ago, a young woman in Texas died of an illegal abortion. Rosie Jimenez’s story is now more relevant than ever.

Source: Texas Observer
Published: Nov 3, 2015
Length: 13 minutes (3,250 words)

The Thin Purple Line

After a controversial raid on a West Texas smoke shop, nothing is hazier than the truth. On synthetic drugs, federal muscle and the limits of freedom:

Source: Texas Observer
Published: Jul 28, 2014
Length: 22 minutes (5,632 words)

Childhood Lost

Sarah Brian says her two children were stolen by her own parents—with help from the state of Texas.

As a 25-year-old woman who’d grown convinced that her parents were trying to control her, Sarah saw her arrest and her daughter’s removal as stark displays of just how little power she had in her hometown. The court order mandated she was allowed to be with Zoe only if one of her parents supervised. But they fell gradually back into their old routines, Sarah making Zoe’s organic baby food in the kitchen and taking her daughter out for walks. Sarah and her parents often had heated fights over parenting questions—like whether the girl should eat peanut butter—letting Sarah’s father decide.

She placated her parents, they later claimed, by scheduling an evaluation with a doctor in Shreveport, Louisiana, later in 2007, but secretly she planned her escape. On the computer at home, while she watched her daughter and her mother watched her, Sarah discreetly researched other cities—weather, support networks, work prospects—and settled on Flagstaff, Arizona. Pictures of its forests and hills even reminded her a little of home.

Source: Texas Observer
Published: May 6, 2014
Length: 25 minutes (6,383 words)

Into the Pines

A man, deep in debt, hides in the woods of East Texas for several months, stealing from the residents of a small community:

Few residents were willing to discuss the run of break-ins—the sheriff estimates at least 35 in all—that spanned most of 2013. Dyes Kountry Katfish, the last spot in town where locals might gather to gossip about the mystery over iced teas and fried lunch, went out of business in 2011. But privately, in homes or at the school nearby in Woden, residents spun their theories. Popular opinion first blamed delinquent youth on spring break; investigators even pulled kids out of classrooms for questioning. The sheriff’s department rushed out for calls about suspicious vehicles that could be the thieves’ getaway cars. Deputies patrolled Melrose at night in unmarked cars and called in the Texas Department of Public Safety to fly over the area. But the break-ins continued—cars, homes and abandoned trailers—without a sign of the culprit. Cash and Social Security cards disappeared from wallets, but oddly, not checks or credit cards. The thief plucked food, guns and other tools of the outdoors from their homes, but perhaps most disturbingly, he robbed residents of the secluded security they prized above all.

Source: Texas Observer
Published: Feb 5, 2014
Length: 25 minutes (6,362 words)


How the manager of a million-dollar horse breeding facility became an informant on one of Mexico’s most feared cartels: Los Zetas.

“Key to the operation in the United States was Jose Treviño, a U.S. citizen with a clean record who had never wanted anything to do with his family’s illicit dealings, until Miguel gave him $25,000 to buy Tempting Dash. ‘You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family,’ Jose often said.

“The FBI wanted Graham to keep working with Jose Treviño and see where it led. He reluctantly agreed to cooperate. Within months, the young horse agent with a Texas A&M ring and an Aggie bumper sticker on his truck was given a Nextel cell phone with a wiretap. The FBI would be listening to every phone conversation Graham had with his new business associates. Unwittingly, Graham, heir to a Texas horse-racing empire, had become an informant on one of the world’s most lethal crime syndicates.”

Source: Texas Observer
Published: Aug 7, 2013
Length: 18 minutes (4,702 words)

A Man Was Murdered Here

In the summer of 2012, a homeless man named William Greer Jr. was bludgeoned to death in a park in Austin, Texas. Greer’s case remains unsolved, and his daughter is determined to find answers:

“In the weeks that followed her dad’s death, Tangie drove to Austin three times: once to speak to police, once to speak to reporters, and once to commemorate what would have been Greer’s 50th birthday on July 29. On one of those visits, Tangie went to the spot where her father lost his life. She spoke to a transient named Chris who sleeps nearby and asked him if he had seen anything the night of the murder. She knew detectives had already questioned him—and eliminated him from their investigation—but maybe he had forgotten to tell them something that could prove crucial. ‘I was playing detective in a way,’ Tangie told me.

“Chris told her he didn’t remember her dad, but that he did recall another transient sleeping at the same spot before Greer’s murder, and afterward. He gave her a description of the man, and Tangie relayed the information to detectives. But she says they told her Chris wasn’t reliable. ‘If you interviewed him eight times, you’ll get eight different answers,’ a detective said.”

Source: Texas Observer
Published: Apr 2, 2013
Length: 12 minutes (3,209 words)

Autism Inc.: The Discredited Science, Shady Treatments and Rising Profits Behind Alternative Autism Treatments

Parents of children on the autism spectrum are wading through a considerable amount of information on the Internet purporting effective treatment and “cures” for autism. A majority of the treatments have been discredited:

“Almost by accident, Laidler says he and Ann, discovered the diet they’d put their son on didn’t work. ‘He was gluten-free and we thought it was a miraculous cure for our son because he’d made pretty dramatic strides from the age of 3 to 4. We were starting to see real progress. But on a trip to Disneyland, he grabbed a waffle off the table and ate it before we could stop him. Doctors had told us that one drop [of gluten] would cause a dramatic relapse—we’d been told anecdotal stories that a speck of wheat bread would cause an autistic child to have weeks of bad behavior. And nothing happened.’

“The Laidlers had also tried chelating their son, and as physicians they had helped other families who wanted to try it. ‘Nobody ever told me it did any good. So to regain my sense of mental balance I started asking a lot of pointed questions: Have you tried chelation? What was the result? Ninety percent of people I asked said they saw no improvement.'”

Source: Texas Observer
Published: Jan 30, 2013
Length: 22 minutes (5,712 words)


Hundred of international parental child abduction cases are reported to the U.S. State Department each year, and left-behind parents are finding it difficult to receive help:

“Monica Sanchez, who lives in San Marcos, bounced between law enforcement agencies for days after her ex-boyfriend, Armando Muñoz Garcia, abducted their 2-year-old daughter Sarahi in January 2012. Sanchez reported the kidnapping to the San Marcos Police Department, but officers told her they needed proof of legal custody in order to help her. The Guadalupe County Sheriff’s Office said the same thing.

“Sanchez had filed for custody of her daughter, but the court hadn’t ruled in the case. Under the law, it’s a crime for one parent to take a child out of the country without the other parent’s permission. Sanchez didn’t know this.

“The federal government requires law enforcement agencies to immediately report missing children under the age of 18 to the National Crime Information Center, whether the parent filing the report has a custody order or not. And Texas recently approved a law that makes international abductions a felony. Yet most law enforcement officers refuse to file missing persons reports without a custody order, which requires an attorney and takes time and money to acquire. In the meantime, a parent can slip out of the country with his child before officers can stop him.”

Source: Texas Observer
Published: Aug 31, 2012
Length: 9 minutes (2,258 words)