With grisly murder scene inside, SAPD patrolled by after dispatch error

Mistake the latest blunder tied to a high-profile San Antonio murder

By Dillon Collier - Investigative Reporter, Mariah Medina - Digital Journalist, Josh Saunders - Photojournalist, David Raziq - Investigative Producer

SAN ANTONIO - San Antonio Police Department records obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders confirm that an officer was dispatched to the home of Mary Dempsey the night before her body was discovered inside, but the officer patrolled by after the 911 call was coded incorrectly.

SAPD officials, who have refused to release 911 dispatch audio related to the early April murder, also blocked the release of a calls for service sheet that shows a 911 caller told an SAPD call taker that she saw two men dressed in black running out of Dempsey's home at 7531 Stagecoach Lane.

The call was received by SAPD at 10:15 p.m. and an officer was dispatched to the home four minutes later, according to the sheet.

However, the call was labeled as "Miscellaneous" and the officer dispatched to the home patrolled by without stopping to knock on the front door, records show.

A source familiar with the investigation was able to buy a copy of the calls for service sheet and then later provided it to the Defenders.

A Defenders request for the exact same record was denied by the city attorney's office, which instead asked the state attorney general's office to allow the department to withhold the record because it is part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

The state attorney general's office this week allowed the department to withhold the dispatch audio and calls for service sheet.

SAPD's Public Information Office refused a request to be interviewed for this story, and instead released the following statement earlier this month:

We declined to release the information that was requested because it directly relates to an on-going Homicide investigation. Personnel assigned to communications receive specialized training and the overall performance of the unit is at an all-time high. SAPD receives over 1.5 million calls for service each year. In this case, a call was coded incorrectly. The Communications Unit has addressed this issue with the dispatcher involved and corrective action was taken. Homicide Detectives were immediately notified of this call and they quickly identified and interviewed the caller. What we can confirm is that the caller was not present at the location when the call was made and they provided inaccurate information to the call taker. We also know that had officers made the scene at the time the call was received, it unfortunately would not have changed or prevented what happened to the victim. We will not exploit Mary Dempsey's death nor jeopardize her case for the sake of your story. Our focus is with the victim and her surviving relatives to ensure that justice is done.

SAPD officials have declined to answer follow up questions from the Defenders about what specific inaccurate information was given by the 911 caller.

SAPD Stagecoach Lane Calls for Service Sheet

Dempsey's body was discovered the following day, April 9 around noon, after her daughter came to the home because Dempsey had not shown up for work.

Investigators were able to develop enough evidence to charge Dempsey's son, 19-year-old Matthew Dempsey and his friend Daniel Saucedo, 18, with capital murder.

Both Matthew Dempsey and Saucedo remain in the Bexar County Jail.

An arrest affidavit stated Matthew Dempsey told investigators that he and Saucedo went to his mother's house to rob her April 8. Matthew Dempsey said they got into the home using his key and began gathering items that they intended to sell, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit states Matthew Dempsey attacked his mother from behind after she arrived home and turned on the kitchen light, and beat her with a baseball bat.

Police said Saucedo grabbed another bat and also began beating Mary Dempsey in the living room.

According to the affidavit, one of the two teens then grabbed a knife and cut Mary Dempsey's throat. Saucedo then bound Mary Dempsey, grabbed a blanket and placed it over her body as Matthew Dempsey rummaged through his mother's wallet.

The pair then loaded the stolen items into Mary Dempsey's car and drove off, later going to an ATM to withdraw money from the credit cards they had stolen from her wallet, the affidavit states.

The Defenders were unable to reach members of Mary Dempsey's family for comment for this story.

Southeast Military?

The Stagecoach Lane dispatch error is the third SAPD communications blunder tied to a high-profile murder in just over two years.

In April 2018, an SAPD call taker dispatched officers to the wrong address during a shooting call involving two Highlands High School students.

Officers were sent to 3903 SW Military Drive instead of the actual shooting scene at 3903 SE Military Drive, according to dispatch records.

The error caused officers to respond to a single-story tax office, more than nine miles from the multi-story apartment complex where the shooting took place.

Audio records confirm that it took more than five minutes to correct the address.

When officers finally arrived at the correct location, the body of 18-year-old Clarissa Riojas was found inside an upstairs apartment.

Her accused shooter, 19-year-old Louis Nickerson, was later found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a wooded area north of the complex, SAPD officials previously said.

Much like in their defense of the Stagecoach Lane mistake, SAPD officials said despite the error, "there would not have been time to prevent the unfortunate events that occurred that morning."

"It was handled improperly from the onset."

In March 2017, a call taker less than a month out of training labeled a 911 call as a welfare check, despite being told by the caller there was likely a body in a home in the 4900 block of Teasdale Drive and a second victim being rushed to an emergency care center, suffering from a head injury from a gun.

The decision to code it as a welfare check came after the call taker consulted with a supervisor, according to SAPD dispatch records.

"It was handled improperly from the onset," said Katherine Carreon, a former SAPD dispatcher who was assigned to that same call.

"It wasn't an incident where it could have been anything else than an actual crime scene," said Carreon, who remembers eventually deciding to tone out the call and send officers with their lights and sirens on.

"It made me feel like I left this poor lady there with no kind of assistance for 10 minutes," said Carreon, referring to Stephanie Woodford, whose body was found inside the home.

Carreon, who started as a call taker and then moved up to dispatcher, retired from the city in late February after 24 years of service.

"I could see that things were not headed in a good direction and I no longer felt that my job was making a difference," said Carreon.

Federal court records show that Carreon sued her employer in 2015, citing a wide-ranging list of issues including disability discrimination and retaliation.

Carreon said she dismissed her suit 11 months later after her attorney told her she may be responsible for covering the city's attorney fees if the suit moved forward.

She said her central concern about SAPD communications remains the same: there is a void in leadership.

"Sometimes I'm put in a position where I have to make a decision and it has to be within seconds because lives and things can change that quick," said Carreon.

"I don't believe you can fully blame them (dispatchers) if you have leadership hiring people that have never done the job before."

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