Family haunted by History Untold of boy they believe was lynched

12-year-old is buried in family cemetery near Helotes

HELOTES, Texas – A mystery has haunted the family of Guillermo Sanchez for generations.

They’ve long believed the 12-year-old buried in the Cepeda family cemetery near Helotes was lynched in 1929 by a group of Anglos as he was tending his family’s flock of sheep.

“It is somewhat surprising, but I think that’s just how things were at that time,” said Albert Cepeda.

He said the boy was one of two children who would have been a first cousin of Cepeda’s father.

After another family member shared the family lore that had been handed down, Cepeda said he was speechless and angry.

“It was very troubling something like that would have happened to a small child,” Cepeda said.

He said, to his knowledge, no one was ever held accountable.

Neighbor Larry Wedige, the caretaker of the cemetery, said he learned about it after looking up the cemetery and saw a notation that the boy had been hung.

“It just really got to me,” Wedige said, so much so that he pauses at Guillermo’s grave whenever he goes in to mow the small cemetery.

He said, “It’s so sad — a 12-year-old boy hung in a tree for no reason.”

However, Cepeda and another family member, Zac Zepeda, said there’s no record of what happened, only a few details they’ve heard through the years. So they don’t know who killed him or why, or even where Guillermo Sanchez died.

“I’m surprised, but not surprised, that something like this would happen and it would be covered up or hushed up,” said Zac Zepeda.

None of that is surprising to Dr. Monica Munoz Martinez, an associate professor of history at UT Austin, who is a nationally recognized expert on anti-Mexican violence.

In researching her book, “The Injustice Never Leaves You,” Munoz Martinez said, “There were so many cases that I couldn’t write about them all.”

Yet she said lynchings and murders in Texas during the 1910-1920 reign of racial terror known as “La Matanza,” or massacre, lacked any documentation or proof they ever happened all too often.

“There were very rarely investigations,” she said. “So it’s difficult to research these histories.”

Even so, Munoz Martinez said she has a team of students at UT Austin researching cases of racial violence for the ongoing Mapping Violence Project.

“There’s so many of the families that I’ve worked with unanswered questions,” she said.

In speaking to Zac Zepeda by phone, Munoz offered to help the Cepeda family finally discover what happened to their young ancestor nearly 100 years ago.

“Any efforts that you make will be deeply appreciated,” Zepeda told her.

For families like the Cepedas, Munoz Martinez said time doesn’t heal their wounds. However, “acknowledging these cases of racial violence is important for healing.”

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About the Authors

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

Adam Barraza is a photojournalist at KSAT 12 and an El Paso native. He interned at KVIA, the local ABC affiliate, while still in high school. He then moved to San Antonio and, after earning a degree from San Antonio College and the University of the Incarnate Word, started working in news. He’s also a diehard Dodgers fan and an avid sneakerhead.

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