SAN ANTONIO – The Special Victims Unit investigates some of the San Antonio Police Department's most trying cases, including sexual assaults of children.
Over the past 15 months, the unit has also dealt with the ambush-style killing of SVU Detective Benjamin Marconi, who was shot and killed outside Public Safety Headquarters in November 2016, then the public firing last fall of SVU Detective Kenneth Valdez.
Valdez was suspended indefinitely in November after an internal affairs investigation determined that he failed to properly investigate more than 100 cases assigned to him.
SVU Detective Wesley Ross, who acknowledged that the Valdez firing gave the 45-strong detective unit a "black eye," said Marconi's death wiped out the group emotionally.
"Talked to Ben on a daily basis. He was just two offices down from us," said Ross, who described how Marconi would bring in barbacoa on weekends.
Marconi was shot and killed Nov. 20, 2016, while sitting inside a marked patrol vehicle.
The Bexar County District Attorney's Office confirmed last month that it will seek the death penalty against Marconi's accused killer, Otis McKane.
Months before the Valdez scandal unfolded, SVU received credit for arresting accused Medical Center rapist Anton Harris.
Harris, who was taken into custody just days after graduating from Marshall High School, is accused in a string of sexual assaults and robberies on the city's northwest side.
"It was every important that we catch this person because the stranger assaults are always the most difficult to solve," said SVU Detective Stephanie Campos.
As Campos pointed out, SVU was able to close in on Harris even though he had no previous criminal history and no DNA on file.
Both Campos and Ross said it's impossible to work for SVU and not have it impact your personal life.
"It would not be human to work these type of cases and not be affected by them," said Campos.
"Our caseload is tremendous and it is very frustrating when you want to do a very thorough job but time is always pressing.
"It gets embedded in your mind. You can't erase what you've seen," said Ross.