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Stories by John Tedesco

Little donated cash aids state troopers

Oct. 9, 2011

Texas Highway Patrol Museum

From the outside, the Texas Highway Patrol Museum doesn’t look like a multimillion-dollar telemarketing operation …

Elders unprotected

Feb. 14, 2010

Bad nursing homes in San Antonio

By the time Emilio Gonzalez left Retama Manor Nursing Center in August 2007, the 76-year-old retired construction worker had wasted away from 132 to 109 pounds. He was dehydrated, feverish with pneumonia and suffering from two gaping bedsores on his buttocks that had blackened his flesh and rotted his tissue to the bone.

Staff members at Southwest General Hospital who admitted him were so alarmed by his condition that they immediately reported his case to state investigators at the Department of Aging and Disability Services, or DADS.

“He must have been in so much pain,” said Gonzalez’s daughter, Mary Koenig, who filed a complaint against the nursing home in September 2007. “He was still entitled to a little dignity, a little respect.”

But like many complaints against nursing homes, state investigators arrived late — weeks after the deadline imposed under state rules — and found the nursing home was not at fault

No one is watching the walls

Jan. 31, 2010

Retaining Wall Front Page
Despite the growing popularity of towering retaining walls like the one that buckled last week, San Antonio officials have paid scant attention to the structures in residential subdivisions and can’t vouch for their safety.

No one at City Hall tracked how many walls were built over the years as thousands of residents flocked to the Texas Hill Country and developers reshaped steep terrain for new homes.

City inspectors never checked the walls.

And, according to members of the real estate industry, it wasn’t widely known that a permitting process existed for tall retaining walls.

“No one can find where the city has ever asked for or insisted on a permit,” subdivision developer Norman Dugas said. “I can’t find anyone who has ever gotten one …”

  • Follow up: Centex Homes wrong about wall threat
  • The Barrios slaying: Portrait of a suspect

    May 18, 2008

    Past deeds, present notoriety: Profile of Joey Estrada

    As many of his friends prepared for their high school exams, a shy, skinny teenager named Joey Estrada Jr. sat in cell No. 1 at Bexar County Jail’s intensive supervision unit — a place reserved for inmates who might be killed by other prisoners.

    It is a small cell, with a narrow bed and a washstand in the corner. On the wall near his bed, Estrada has pasted a photograph of a former girlfriend smiling as she poses in her high school dance team uniform, her dark hair in a high ponytail.

    There is a photograph of Estrada and his father, with three mounted deer heads behind them on a wall. In another, he poses with his sister, mother and father near a picnic table in a park. He’s smiling, and the family looks happy.

    Yet this 18-year-old is accused of a crime so shocking he must be segregated from other prisoners

    Cause for alarm

    March 11, 2007

    Cause for alarm: Fire response times lag in San Antonio

    City records show the Fire Department’s mission of protecting lives and property is clashing with San Antonio’s appetite for new land.

    In the past six years, firefighters rushed to inner-city blazes far more quickly than to fires in popular outlying areas that attract thousands of new homeowners.

    Delays on the city’s edges plague rich and poor alike, from the exclusive enclave of the Dominion to low-income neighborhoods like Sunrise, a struggling community on the far East Side.

    San Antonio annexed many of these neighborhoods despite protests by residents, who complained the city would fail to provide swift fire protection.

    The city’s own records reveal that most of the time, those fears came true

    Fleet but fatally fragile

    May 21, 2006

    Fleet but fatally fragile

    Miss Pretty Promises collapsed near the finish line and struggled to rise on her shattered forelegs.

    A pickup rushed to the crippled racehorse. Two men sprang out and shielded the filly from the crowd with a crinkled tarp as the vet went to work.

    It was April 28 — opening night for live racing at Retama Park. In the stands, many people had gasped when horse No. 4 with the crisp yellow silks tumbled in front of them on the dirt track.

    A covered trailer soon whisked the concealed horse away and onlookers clapped and cheered, as if they were rooting for a football player who was limping bravely off the field.

    But Miss Pretty Promises never would run again

    Losing Ground

    Oct. 16, 2005

    Losing Ground

    An obscure Texas law written for developers has cost San Antonio millions of dollars, stripped parts of the scenic Hill Country of trees and blocked attempts to protect the region’s water supply

    Good idea gone bad?

    May 11, 2003

    Good idea gone bad
    Imagine a government subsidy that cures San Antonio’s poorest neighborhoods.

    Thanks to this multimillion-dollar pill, new homes breathe life into dying parts of town. Families move in, proud of their investment.

    You might say good things about such a program.

    Now imagine how the same subsidy puts buildings on valuable land that would have been developed anyway, and stops local government from collecting $658 million in tax revenue – enough money to build three SBC Centers, and then some.

    And imagine one of the city’s top lobbyists taking a cut of the tax pie for himself.

    Welcome to San Antonio’s complicated world of tax increment financing — TIF, for short — where each ambitious project comes with a price


    Videos by John Tedesco

    Reliving the Battle of the Alamo

    Texas Highway Patrol Museum spends little money on state troopers

    Concealed handgun permits skyrocket in wealthy zip codes

    Man finds missile launcher on rural property


    Story map

    For nearly 18 years, I’ve traveled across Texas, met interesting people, and shared their stories with readers of the San Antonio Express-News.

    The points in this map call up articles that include coverage of the space shuttle Columbia disaster, and the hunting mishap involving Vice President Dick Cheney.

    I got to meet Paco, the quirky owner of Frank’s Cafe who served big steaks to celebrity hunters and has since passed away. I met Deborah and Gary Swenchonis Sr., who were mourning their son who died in the bombing of the USS Cole, but were unfailingly gracious because they wanted to tell their son’s story.

    It’s impossible to count all the interesting people I’ve interviewed over the years. But to everyone who let me share their unique stories … thank you.


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