Fort Worth

32 years after the rape, murder of his little sister, a brother still waits for justice

Brother of murder victim reacts to execution delay for Juan Segundo

Enrique Estrada Balderas says he feels like his sister's murderer is "getting rewarded" after the state delayed the execution of Juan Segundo. Segundo was sentenced to death for the murder of 11-year-old Vanessa Villa.
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Enrique Estrada Balderas says he feels like his sister's murderer is "getting rewarded" after the state delayed the execution of Juan Segundo. Segundo was sentenced to death for the murder of 11-year-old Vanessa Villa.

Juan Segundo did more than take a life when he climbed through a bedroom window in 1986 and raped and strangled 11-year-old Vanessa Villa.

Enrique Estrada Balderas, Vanessa’s older brother, says Segundo not only killed his sister, he forever altered Balderas’ life and the lives of his family. When Balderas later had children of his own, what happened to his sister was never far from his mind.

He made his three children sleep in the same room as him and his wife, first all together in their king-size bed and later on bunk beds that he set up in the room. They would not move into their own rooms until they were teenagers, he said.

He nailed all the windows shut “so nobody could open them.”

“I have an alarm. I have a German Shepherd inside the house all the time,” Balderas said. “He changed my life. I don’t let nobody get near my kids.”

It’s a paranoid life, Balderas said. One that he never wanted.

“I’m mad. I’m very mad because I don’t think that my kids are free because of me. Because I think someone is going to do something to them,” Balderas said.

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Vanessa Villa, who was found sexually assaulted and strangled inside her Fort Worth home on Aug. 3, 1986. Star-Telegram archives

Balderas said he had hoped to get some relief today when he and other family members planned to travel to Hunstville to witness Segundo being executed. But on Friday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted Segundo a stay of execution based on the 55-year-old man’s claim that he is intellectually disabled.

Being left in limbo again and not knowing if the Texas Attorney General’s Office will appeal the stay is frustrating.

“Not knowing and thinking they are going to let him stay for the rest of his life in prison, he don’t deserve it. He don’t deserve it,” Balderas said. “He took my sister’s life. She was 11 years old.”

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Juan Segundo Texas Department of Criminal Justice

The night of Aug. 3, 1986, Vanessa had turned down her mom’s invitation to go to a nearby store with the family.

“She said no, she was tired. She wanted to go to sleep,” Balderas recalled.

When they returned to their home in north Fort Worth less than 30 minutes later, Rosa Maria Clarke went to the bedroom she shared with her daughter.

“Then she started screaming that something happened to Vanessa, so I came out of my room and looked at her. She was laying on the bed half-naked,” Balderas said. “... My mom, she was talking to her, screaming at her, but there was no reaction.”

Vanessa, an elementary school student who worked weekends selling cowboy hats and boots at a flea market, was taken to the hospital but was pronounced dead a short time later.

Her killer had entered the bedroom through a window. Police found an overturned white 5-gallon bucket underneath the window, apparently used as a step to climb inside. During the attack, Vanessa’s three young cousins slept undisturbed in another room.

As the case went unsolved for so many years, Balderas said, the family couldn’t trust anyone. When someone walked by their house, they were suspicious and wondered if it could be Vanessa’s killer.

“It was hard for us not knowing who did it,” Balderas said. “... We didn’t know where to look.”

The family was shocked when in 2005, a DNA database linked Segundo to the crime and he was arrested. He was a one-time acquaintance whose ex-wife used to work with Vanessa’s mom and Balderas at a nursing home and whom they knew as “Johnny.”

”I got kind of shocked because at the funeral, he was there. He signed the book,” Balderas said. ”How can you do something like that and then go see her... Come and see her laying there in her casket. What kind of people would do that?”

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Rosa Maria Clark with her daughter, Denisse Perez, (right) and son, Pedro Perez, at Vanessa Villa’s grave in April 2005 after learning an arrest had been made in the case. On the left is Lucia Rosales, Vanessa’s sister-in-law. ALISON WOODWORTH Star-Telegram archives

Segundo would later be linked through DNA to three other murder victims: Melissa Badillo. Maria Navarro, and Francene Williams.

All three women had been discovered dead in Fort Worth in 1994 and 1995. Each had also been raped and strangled.

Sylvia Sanchez, Badillo’s sister, said she knew Segundo for many years and scoffed at his claim that he is intellectually disabled.

“He’s very bright, He’s not insane. He’s not crazy,” Sanchez said. “In all these years that he’s been in prison, all of the sudden he’s crazy? He’s nuts and he can’t be executed because of that? No ma’am. This man is smart and he knows exactly what he’s doing.”

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Melissa Badillo Courtesy Badillo Family

Sanchez said while she hopes the state appeals the stay of execution, she finds some comfort in knowing that even if Segundo is never put to death, “he will suffer for the rest of his life because he’s a child killer and he’s in prison with prisoners who don’t like child killers.”

“He will always have to look over his shoulder because of what he did to this poor little baby,” Sanchez said.

Clarke, Vanessa’s mother, who died in 2013, had not wanted Segundo to be executed for her daughter’s killing.

“She said that God will take care of it,” Balderas said. “She said if he’ll live for the rest of his life in prison, she’d be happy with it.”

But Balderas said he wanted, and still longs for, Segundo to be put to death.

When Segundo was sentenced to death in December 2006 for Vanessa’s murder, Balderas said he’d been warned that there would be a long wait.

So when the execution date was finally set months ago for today, Balderas, his brother and sister and an aunt planned to be present to watch Segundo take his last breath.

“I just want to make sure that he’s gone. I just want to make sure,” Balderas said.

Now, he waits again.

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