Calls for second opinion on charges in homicide case go unanswered, victim’s father says

SAN ANTONIO – His son’s killer was never charged. Now, Armando Rodriguez is asking for a meeting with the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office to have his son’s case looked at by a different attorney.

In November 2020, Robert Fluellen was shot and killed in what the Helotes Police Department called a “criminal negligent homicide case,” according to their police report made available to KSAT through an open records request.

“I’m my son’s voice. I’m all that’s left that he has,” said Rodriguez.

In 2021, his family was informed by the Bexar County DA that the case could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt and charges would not be filed against the identified suspect.

Rodriguez has been asking the district attorney’s office to get his son’s case looked at by a different attorney.

He said his requests to be heard by the district attorney have not been successful.

On September 11, he showed up at the District 4 Town Hall, where he had a face-to-face with DA Joe Gonzales.

“I spoke with the Felony Trial division chief, who promise me you’ll hear from me tomorrow. It’s the same promises. You know, it’s been two weeks tomorrow,” he said, frustrated.

In an email, the district attorney’s office said the suspect in the Fluellen case could not be charged at this time.

“Our office is required by law to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant has committed the crime of which he or she is accused. A review of evidence currently available in this case, in the opinion of the prosecutors, indicated potential issues in reaching the ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ standard. In the event additional information or evidence comes to light, the matter can be revisited because double jeopardy has not attached.”

But Rodriguez said he wants his day of justice, for the case to move through the process and let the courts decide.

“We simply want some answers as to what is needed, what else is needed. Those three witnesses, those DPS lab results that were done on the gun,” he said.

In a separate email, the district attorney’s office spokesperson explained resources are available to help victims and survivors through the delicate legal process.

“Victim’s services are a crucial part of our mission to uphold justice. Our efforts to communicate with victims are robust. In fact, the training program used statewide for victims’ assistance coordinators by the Texas District and County Association (TDCAA) was in large part designed by an employee of our office, who was the founding chairperson of TDCAA’s Victims’ Services and, to my knowledge, the only non-lawyer to receive TDCAA’s Sherrell Award for exceptional service to TDCAA and its members. Under District Attorney Gonzales, victims’ services have been improved and strengthened.

Victims services has several layers. A crime victims’ liaison (CVL) reaches out to the victim or the victim’s family (in the case of a homicide) once our office has been notified that a crime has been committed and information regarding the victim has been transmitted to our office. The CVL gathers as many details as possible from the victims themselves (description, location, and other significant information), provides the initial information on victims’ services, and is generally the victim’s or family’s initial introduction to the prosecution portion of the criminal justice process. Subsequent to that, a crime victims’ advocate (CVA) is assigned to the case. A CVA is part of the trial team assigned to each criminal district court. The CVA works with the victim or the victim’s family throughout the remainder of the process.

CVA’s keep victims or their families in the loop with regard to any potential dismissal, complication, settings, trial dates, plea negotiations, etc. They are particularly important in helping prepare a family for the presentation of the case to a judge or jury. In the event of a plea, the family is immediately included in the conversation through both the advocate and prosecutors. It is not uncommon for District Attorney Gonzales to personally meet with a victim or their family. Because the experience of a courtroom can be very traumatic for a victim, our advocates and their trial team colleagues work hard to prepare the victims or their families for the pain that comes with listening to testimony, seeing exhibits, and generally reliving their experience.

The experience that a victim or the victim’s family is going through is exceedingly difficult. Because everyone handles trauma differently, victims’ families’ are asked to provide our office with a primary point of contact so that we know who the family has designated as their lead spokesperson. We initially have no personal knowledge of who is or is not related, so we work with and through the individual or individuals identified as the primary contacts. There are occasions where more distant relatives of a victim may seek information but, for privacy reasons, we may not be able to provide the briefings or other information provided to closer family members unless by permission of the primary contacts. This can lead to frustration on the part of these more distant family members.

The legal process is a difficult one to navigate – especially when you’re a victim or you have lost a member of your family as a result of crime. We understand that. It is not unusual for victims involved in the criminal justice process to feel a lot of emotion and frustration – especially when the day of sentencing finally arrives. It is also not unusual for there to be disparate views of the process among family members. We understand those things, as well. You can never get your family member back. The loss is inconsolable and the pain unbearable. It is natural (and totally understandable) to think that the person who stole that part of your life should pay in equal measure to your pain. Our best efforts – and our prayers – are always with the victims.”

About the Authors:

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.

Alexis Montalbo is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.