Fort Worth

Alisha Trevino was an addict who made a bad decision. But should she have died?

The troubled life of Alisha Trevino: Part 1

The parents of a 25-year-old woman from Springtown who died from a drug overdose discuss their daughter's struggles.
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The parents of a 25-year-old woman from Springtown who died from a drug overdose discuss their daughter's struggles.

Police were convinced that Alisha Trevino was faking it.

“Jailitis,” officers concluded, just another suspect pretending to be sick in hopes of avoiding jail.

More than an hour earlier, Alisha and her boyfriend had been pulled over by Fort Worth police and a search had revealed almost 9 ounces of ice, or methamphetamine, hidden under her car’s hood.

At first Alisha had been fine, joking and chatting with officers. Only after the handcuffs went on did her behavior change.

She vomited. Twice. And complained she couldn’t breathe. At one point, her body shaking and hips convulsing, she told police that she was having a seizure.

Officers repeatedly questioned Alisha, a meth addict known to have concealed drugs to avoid being arrested, if she had either ingested or hidden drugs inside her body.

And repeatedly, police say, the 25-year-old Springtown woman responded “no.”

Almost an hour would pass after Alisha first vomited before an officer would request an ambulance on a “slow roll” — police slang for no lights, no sirens, no hurry.

By then, Alisha was lying still on the back seat of a police car, breathing but not responding, not even when told that her boyfriend had admitted the drugs were his and that she was free to go.

Another 15 minutes would tick by before a MedStar ambulance arrived.

Don’t bother with a stretcher, one officer reportedly told the arriving medics, saying that Alisha appeared to be only “acting.”

“She was just fine until we told her she was going to jail,” medics would later recall they were told by an officer. “She started acting like she having a seizure and even foaming at the mouth. We guess she’s too far into her story that she can’t change it now.”

Inside the patrol car, the medics found Alisha barely breathing. Her heart stopped beating on the ambulance ride to John Peter Smith Hospital and though medical staff would get it beating again, doctors told her family there was no hope for survival.

On the morning of April 17, 2015, just more than 39 hours after being pulled over, Alisha died after being removed from life support.

The parents of Alisha Trevino recount the moments that they heard of their daughter's drug overdose and death after being in police custody.

The major case unit investigated her death, but a Tarrant County grand jury that reviewed the case last spring declined to indict any of the officers involved. An internal affairs investigation also was conducted, but it led to no suspensions by then interim Chief Rhonda Robertson.

Not satisfied with the results, Alisha’s parents, Robby Trevino and Laurie Reed Trevino, filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit in March against the city of Fort Worth, its police department and seven officers.

The Star-Telegram obtained the major case unit investigation reports through an open records request, which provide a detailed look at the last few hours of Alisha Trevino’s troubled life and the role Fort Worth police may or may not have played in her death.

“The death of Ms. Trevino is tragic,” said Terry Daffron, the attorney who represented the narcotics officers involved in the incident during the criminal and internal investigations.

“However, the major case investigation and grand jury found no criminal wrongdoing on the part of the officers. In my opinion, based on the information provided to the officers at the scene by Ms. Trevino, the officers’ actions were reasonable.”

The Trevinos say the lawsuit isn’t about money, but about accountability from officers who didn’t follow their duty to get their daughter medical help.

“We realize she made a bad choice … nobody made her swallow the drugs and that it was a fatal choice,” her father, Robby Trevino, said in recent interview.

“But when they handcuffed her and put her in the back of the police car, they took away her ability to reverse that choice. … When they realize someone needs medical attention and that person cannot get medical attention on their own, it’s their responsibility to do that.

“We believe that when they waited and when they ignored it, they took away any chance that she had to live.”

‘She struggled so much’

Alisha was born on Christmas Day 1989, arriving so quickly that her parents joke she was almost delivered under their Christmas tree.

Growing up the only girl surrounded by four brothers, Alisha was especially close to Robby Jr., her youngest brother. Born a year and five days apart, the pair spent so much time together that some in the Diamond Hill neighborhood of Fort Worth assumed they were twins.

A cheerleader for Diamond Hill in the North Texas Pee Wee Football Association, Alisha loved putting on makeup, doing her hair and reading science-fiction and horror stories.

But as she grew into a teen, her parents noticed changes.

At 15, she broke down and admitted to her parents that she had been raped at age 12 by someone she knew. They reported it to police but the suspect was never charged, they said.

“She held that, and it wore at her, even though she wouldn’t let us get her counseling,” Laurie Trevino said.

At 16, Alisha became a young mother to a daughter of her own.

Looking for a fresh start, the family moved to Springtown in 2006. But in January 2007, Robby Jr. died suddenly from an undetected heart condition. He was only 16.

 
Alisha Trevino, far left, died in 2015 after overdosing on ingested meth while in the back seat of a patrol car. Alisha was especially close to Robby Jr., her youngest brother, seated on his father’s lap. Special to the Star-Telegram

Alisha, a single teenage mother, was shattered.

“That was like the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Laurie Trevino said. “She couldn’t deal with life. Within a couple of months, she was doing dope. She stayed on dope from ’07 off and on until she passed away.”

With the drug use, came one crime spree after another.

The same year as her brother’s death, Alisha began racking up convictions for auto theft, fraud and burglary in Tarrant County.

She served stints in prison and signed over custody of her young daughter to her parents.

“She wanted to make sure [her daughter] would have an amazing life,” Laurie Trevino said. “Even though she was young, troubled and a drug addict, she always put [her daughter’s] needs first.”

As many inmates do, Alisha found Jesus in prison. And she clung to her new-found faith after being released, writing letters begging that God take her addiction away.

She even encouraged her mother, who then was not very religious, to accept Christ as her savior.

“I was grieving so hard for little Robby. I was a mess,” Laurie Trevino said. “She told me if I would just turn to Jesus it would help me. When I did, it made my life 100 times better. It’s all because of her.”

Alisha’s addiction was strong. She was clean for a stretch, but her parents noticed some of her old friends — drug users themselves coming around.

Before long, Alisha’s frequent visits and daily phone calls to her mom and daughter ceased — a sign to her parents that she had relapsed.

“She struggled so much. She fought it so hard,” Laurie Trevino said. “… She really depended on God to heal her. Ultimately, he did, just not the way we had hoped or that I think she had planned.”

‘Proud of being clean’

Alisha’s last stint in prison would be for concealing drugs on her body.

On Halloween night 2013, she was a passenger in a van pulled over by gang unit officer T. Hauck for failing to use a turn signal.

Alisha emerged from the van acting strangely, chewing on her tongue and licking her lips. She was arrested for public intoxication and unlawful carrying of a weapon after officers found a 24-inch machete next to where she had been sitting in the van.

Though she insisted she had nothing illegal on her, a strip search while being booked into jail uncovered a baggie containing 2 grams of meth inside her anus.

She pleaded guilty in January 2014 to possessing a prohibited substance in a correctional facility in exchange for two years in prison.

Paroled in September 2014, Alisha was again determined to turn her life around. She moved in with her father’s parents in north Fort Worth and got a job as a cook.

“She was proud of being clean,” Laurie Trevino said.

But, just as before, it would not last.

 
Robby and Laurie Trevino with their 10-year-old granddaughter. The Trevinos have filed a federal lawsuit against Fort Worth, the police department, and seven officers in connection with the April 2015 death of their daughter, Alisha Trevino. Joyce Marshall - jlmarshall@star-telegram.com

After an old friend and drug dealer, Alfredo Cortez, got out of jail, Alisha soon stopped showing up at work. The visits and phone calls to family members also stopped — again.

When Laurie Trevino was finally able to reach her, Alisha admitted she was using but assured her mother that she was going to get help.

“She went to her parole officer nine days before she passed away and told the parole officer that she was using again and needed help,” Laurie Trevino said. “He drug-tested her and because she came up negative, he told her he couldn’t revoke her parole but he’d put in paperwork to try to get her treatment.

“Two days before the paperwork could go through is when she passed away.”

Mom’s last contact with her daughter would be a Facebook exchange on April 15, 2015 — just hours before Alisha was pulled over by police. They argued about Alisha being with Cortez. And about drugs.

“I told her, ‘You live by the sword; you die by the sword,’ ” Laurie Trevino recalled.

At their church prayer group that night, Robby and Laurie Trevino prayed that God would deliver Alisha from her addiction.

A few hours later, while sleeping, they received a phone call from JPS Hospital — a call that parents dread.

“She said, ‘We’ve got your daughter here in the emergency room,’ ” Robby Trevino recalled. “I said, ‘Is she OK?’ There was a pause, and she said, ‘No.’ 

‘Do you have anything in you?’

Earlier that day, narcotics officers had received a tip that Cortez, known as “Shorty,” was driving a gray car containing a large amount of methamphetamine. The source told police that Cortez and Alisha, his girlfriend, would be heading to a game room in west Fort Worth, off Benbrook Highway.

Undercover narcotics officers were watching when the couple later left the game room, got into Alisha’s 2002 Mazda and drove away. They alerted gang unit officers assisting in the investigation.

At 8:07 p.m., gang unit officers Hauck and J.S. Hinz pulled the car over in the 4300 block of Bonnie Drive for a broken brake light. More gang officers soon pulled up.

Cortez, the driver and a documented member of the Tango Blast prison gang, was wanted on outstanding warrants. He was handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol car.

Alisha was seated on the curb while officers waited for a K-9 unit to arrive and search the car.

“Hey, I know you,” Hauck remarked to Alisha, reminding her of their 2013 encounter.

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Alisha responded, telling the officer she went to prison in that case.

Hauck mentioned the drugs found inside Alisha at the jail and asked: “Well, do you have anything on you right now?”

“No, no, no. I don’t have anything on me right now,” she responded.

“Well, do you have anything in you right now,” Hauck persisted.

“She said ‘No, I don’t have anything. It’s not like that, I’m clean.’ 

After the K-9 unit arrived, Alisha asked to sit in the back of a patrol car because she was cold.

Paxo, a drug-sniffing dog, was brought to the scene and searched Alisha’s car.

Under the hood, gang unit officers found the stash of meth tucked inside a Coach purse near the car’s battery.

 
Undercover narcotics officers were watching as Alfredo Cortez and Alisha Trevino left the Vapor City game room on April 15, 2015. They’d been tipped off earlier that Cortez was driving a gray car containing a large amount of methamphetamine. Fort Worth Police Department

“Bingo,” an officer radioed to narcotics officers, who joined gang unit officers at the scene.

Alisha was moved to an unmarked pickup, where narcotics officers questioned her about the drugs.

“I don’t know whose it is. It’s not mine,” she insisted.

Narcotics officers told Alisha that she was under arrest for possession, then walked her back to the gang unit officers. She was handcuffed.

Officers put her in the back seat and shut the door. A female officer was requested to come to the scene to do a more thorough search of Alisha.

Narcotics officers turned their attention to Cortez.

‘I’m having a seizure’

Gang officer D. Koplin was in the front of his patrol car, filling out paperwork to have Alisha’s car towed, when he heard Alisha vomiting in the back seat.

He got out and opened the rear door for her. She turned sideways on the edge of the seat with her legs outside the car and vomited a small amount again, this time onto the ground.

Koplin told investigators he repeatedly asked Alisha if she’d ingested something and whether she needed an ambulance. Each time, Alisha either replied no or would not answer his question.

“… What we’re worried about if she ate something then, depending on how long we’re going to be out there, we definitely need to get an ambulance out there or take her to JPS,” Koplin told investigators.

Once he closed the patrol car door again, Alisha began shaking and dry heaving, “like making herself cough,” Koplin said.

“I asked her, ‘What’s going on?’ She stops what she’s doing, kind of doesn’t look at me but turns her head and says, ‘I’m having a seizure,’ ” Koplin told investigators. “I thought that was really odd, you know. I’ve seen people have seizures before and they don’t talk through seizures.”

Koplin alerted Hinz, who also questioned Alisha.

“She said she was sick and she couldn’t breathe so she needed some air … so I turned on the air conditioner in the car all the way to high and rolled down the other window,” Hinz later told investigators.

He said when Alisha began shaking, then repeatedly throwing her hips almost to the ceiling of the car — he asked her again what was wrong. She replied that she was sick and didn’t feel well.

 
Police found a total of 250.6 grams — almost 9 ounces — of methaphetamines or Ice, inside a purse hidden in the engine compartment. Fort Worth Police Department

“… Do you want an ambulance?” Hinz asked.

She didn’t answer.

“Well, all right, I’m not gonna call if you don’t want one,” Hinz replied.

From inside the pickup where Cortez was being interviewed, narcotics Sgt. S. LaCroix noticed Alisha was having what appeared to be fits of anger while seated in the patrol car in front of them.

“She’d sit there calm and then she’d get … pissed off and she’d be kicking at the doors and she’d be banging on the doors or bang her head on the cage in between the car, and then she’d go calm and sit there,” LaCroix told investigators.

LaCroix later stepped outside the truck and talked to Hauck about Alisha.

“She says she’s sick. Do you want me to call an ambulance?” Hauck asked LaCroix.

“Look, I think she’s faking it,” LaCroix said he told Hauck. “She was perfectly fine earlier … .”

“I think she’s faking, too,” Hauck responded.

“I go then, ‘Look, if she’s faking it, then no. She does not need the ambulance if she’s faking,” LaCroix told investigators.

LaCroix went back to the interview with Cortez and told investigators when he later caught a glimpse of Alisha during another of her outbursts, Cortez remarked, “Man she’s tripping. … she acts like this all the time when she’s angry.”

‘They let my baby die’

Cortez, however, would tell a different story to major case unit detectives investigating his girlfriend’s death.

“They let my baby die, man,” he cried.

Cortez admitted that he and Alisha had smoked meth at about two or three that afternoon.

He said when they spotted police that night, Alisha pulled out a sack of dope and asked what she should do with it. He said he told Alisha to give it to him but she said no and then shoved it down the front of her pants.

Cortez said he later spotted her throwing up.

As he answered officers questions inside the pickup, he saw Alisha “jumping up and down” in the back of the patrol car as if she was having a seizure. Cortez said he told the officer that something was wrong with Alisha.

 
Alfredo Cortez Fort Worth Police Department

“I’m like, [expletive] man, you call an ambulance or something man,’ and they’re like, ‘No, she’ll be all right, she’ll be all right, she’s just tripping cause she thinks she’s going to jail,’ ” Cortez told investigators.

Before being taken to jail, Cortez said he asked if he could speak to Alisha and the officer agreed, but warned “she’s acting real crazy.”

Arriving at the patrol car, Cortez said Alisha was “tripping” and foaming at the mouth. He said he told her not to worry and that he was going to take the charge.

After Cortez was led away to be taken to jail, Hinz said he opened up the patrol car and told Alisha to get up, “We’re letting you go. You’re not going to jail.” She didn’t move.

Hinz said he grabbed her arm and tried to pull her up. When she still didn’t move, he removed her handcuffs and asked another officer to call an ambulance.

Koplin requested an ambulance to come to the scene “on a slow roll” for a “female complaining of breathing issues.”

LaCroix would later tell investigators that from where he stood, he could see Alisha’s leg involuntarily shaking and realized she was really sick.

“I look at her leg and I go, ‘Dude … she is now symptomatic. You need to call an ambulance,’ ” LaCroix told investigators.

He said gang unit officers continued to tell Alisha to wake up and to treat her as if she were faking.

“My thought was ‘Are y’all that naive and don’t know?’ ” LaCroix told investigators.

‘It could have made a difference’

Only two gang officers — C. McAnulty and Koplin — were still on the scene when the ambulance arrived.

Paramedic K. Sherrod and her MedStar partner were preparing to get out their stretcher when one of the officers told them not to bother.

“Oh, you won’t need that,” Sherrod would later tells investigators the officer told her. “We think that she’s just kind of faking.”

The officer told Sherrod that Alisha had pretended to have trouble breathing and was faking seizures even after being told she wasn’t being arrested. The officer added that it was too late for her to back out of her story and she was even foaming at the mouth.

Sherrod said she found Alisha laying on her back inside the patrol car, her legs hanging out the passenger door.

“I tried to talk to her and I grabbed her arm and tried to help her sit up and she was limp and she didn’t move,” Sherrod would tell investigators.

Moved to a stretcher, Sherrod determined Alisha — who still had a handcuff attached to one arm — was barely breathing. She appeared to have had a seizure, her jaw was locked and closed, and her pupils were not reactive to light. White foam drooled from her mouth and nose.

“I was incredibly upset about this call. I’ve not ever been that upset about a call,” Sherrod told investigators. “It shouldn’t have gone that way. It upset me enough to where I didn’t come to work the next night.”

Sherrod told investigators that, in the past, Fort Worth police had always been good about calling MedStar. But not this time.

“I don’t know how long she had been like that so I was upset that they didn’t call us sooner,” Sherrod said. “... It could of made a difference. It really could of made a difference. Had we gotten there and gotten her definitive medical care, it could of made a difference in life or death.”

The Trevinos arrived at John Peter Smith Hospital — the same hospital where Alisha had been born — to find their daughter on a ventilator, her body swollen and almost unrecognizable.

Medical staff told the parents that there was a blockage in Alisha’s intestines and that they suspected she’d ingested drugs and was having a meth overdose.

Told that Alisha’s internal organs were dying and that there was no hope, Alisha’s parents and brothers gathered around her hospital bed on the morning of April 17, 2015, as life support was removed.

She was pronounced dead at 11:16 a.m.

“She has a little mole right here,” Laurie Trevino said, pointing to her chin, “ that I would always kiss.”

“Everyone held on to her and I just covered her face with kisses and just kept kissing her while her lips turned blue and you could see the life drain out of her,” Laurie Trevino said, sobbing. “... It’s not supposed to happen like this. You’re not supposed to bury your kid.”

Many questions unanswered

An autopsy would later reveal two pieces of a plastic bag inside Alisha’s stomach.

In their investigative report, major case unit investigators noted the many unknowns that remained in the case:

▪ When did Alisha swallow the meth?

▪ How much meth did she ingest? (Cortez estimated the baggie he saw Alisha tuck into her pants contained anywhere from a couple of grams of meth to a quarter-ounce.)

▪ Did the baggie break open, releasing all the meth at one time, or was it a slow leak?

▪ And, had medical personnel arrived sooner, would Alisha have admitted to ingesting the meth and could they have done anything for her?

“It cannot be determined whether or not getting medical help earlier would have resulted in a different outcome because there are too many variables involved,” the lead investigator concluded.

What is known, the report states, is that by the time Alisha received medical assistance, she was critically ill. She died as a result of ingesting narcotics.

The Trevinos said they received four different stories from police about what happened to their daughter, including that Alisha took two steps after being told she could go, then collapsed into a seizure.

They said it was only through a JPS nurse and Cortez that they learned Alisha had gone so long without medical help.

The Trevinos say they only wanted officers to have followed policy and call their daughter an ambulance when it was obvious she was in medical distress. Their decision not to, they believe, should have cost the officers their badges, if not more.

“That’s all we wanted was for them to do their job,” Laurie Trevino said. “I didn’t want any special favors. … I’d rather go visit her in prison than at her grave.”

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