Posted: May 17, 2012 12:02 AM
Updated: May 17, 2012 11:53 AM
WESLACO - A single mother says she's a survivor, after walking away from a killer. Raul Garza confessed to killing his wife and a young girl in his home in Weslaco.
He also admitted to kidnapping his neighbor who he didn't know. That woman is speaking to CHANNEL 5 NEWS.
Andrea Tafolla is telling her story to show other women the impossible is possible. She's says don't call her a victim. She's a survivor.
She says her neighbor from down the street, who she didn't even know, knocked on her door. He came to give her bags of recyclables, because she and her children collected them. She agreed to go to his house two doors down.
"I'm walking and it's dark. I'm starting to see clothes and chaos. There's no noise. No kids are running around. He points in the direction of the garage. I'm thinking, 'If she's working in there, there should be light'. As I'm walking in, he yells, 'Don't be scared' in his deep voice. My back is facing him; I took a deep breath. Inside of me, I thought, 'His wife is not here. He's going to rape me,'" recalls Tafolla.
She is a single mother. Her daughters needed her to stay alive.
"I kinda smiled and said, 'Where's your wife?' He goes, 'Right there on the floor. She's dead. I killed her.' Her face was unrecognizable. It had dried blood. It was purple. Her lips were so swollen it didn't look like it was human. The rest of the body was covered with a sheet," she tells us.
Garza then showed Tafolla the body of a child. He says he killed the child when she tried to save his wife.
"I said, 'I've already seen that before.' And he said 'Where?' And I said, 'On TV. I watch these reality shows,'" says Tafolla.
She was fascinated by stories of surviving against incredible odds.
The single mother remembered "that you need to make the person see you as a human and not as an object or an animal."
"I knew I had to get to his level. I didn't panic," Tafolla says.
"I was very afraid. He goes, 'If you don't help me, I'm going to kill your daughters.' He's standing in the entrance to the garage. There's no way out and he has a knife. I knew if I tried anything I'd be dead right there in his garage. I just knew I had to survive. I wasn't going to show him I feared him," says Tafolla.
Garza told her he wanted her car. He forced her to walk to her house. He had a knife in his pocket. He threatened to kill her daughters if she tried to get away.
"I'm talking to him like I'm his friend. I'm telling him 'You can take my car. It has full coverage here are the keys.' I told him, 'I'll give you $100 also.' I just want him to leave. He panics. Everything is going too well; it's surprising him," says Tafolla.
He didn't leave. In fact, he wanted to go inside Andrea's house.
"He told me to get in that room, and he closed the door. And I locked it to make sure my daughter would not come in. I'm not sure how much time we were in there. Time can't be measured when you're fearing for your children's life. I found out about how he killed his wife. He went into detail. I never stopped him. I never asked him," she says.
He also told her how he killed the child. The gruesome details were intimidating, so she says she focused on saving her children.
"I told him, 'I'll take you to all the ATMs. I'll pull money out. Go to Mexico.' He got upset and said, 'Are you telling me what to do? If you're telling me what to do, that's what my wife was doing. That's why she's dead.' I said, 'I'm not telling you what to do. I'm sorry,'" she says.
She says Garza was snorting cocaine the entire time.
"At that point he's telling me, 'I'm not going to kidnap you. I'm going to kidnap your daughter,' and I wasn't going to let that happen," she says.
She says Garza put a bag of cocaine in her hands and asked her to use the drugs, but she said no.
"I don't do drugs, and he's getting mad. And at this point, he stabs the mattress with the knife," she says.
At one point, she pushed some of the cocaine onto the floor. She knew it could be evidence against him later. She talked her way out of doing the drugs.
"Never did I shed a tear or show him fear. I showed him I'm strong like you," says Tafolla.
According to Tafolla, Garza said he'd rape her if he could, but the cocaine made him impotent.
"I started talking to him. I started remembering on Saturday I graduate from STC. And even though it's only an associate's, it was a big step for me for my children. I told him how my daughters needed me. I was the only thing they had. All of the sudden, he says, 'Okay, we're going to leave,'" says Tafolla.
Garza forced her out of her house and into her car to drive across the Valley.
"He says, 'He wants to shoot himself in the heart, because it won't be painful. And that he's not willing to stab himself, because it will hurt.' I get in the car and start driving. He tells me to head to Mile 11," she says.
He made her drive to a store.
"Something, I picked up from watching the shows was that people get very agitated when they use cocaine. So in order to keep him calm, I put on the air conditioning very high, even though I was cold," she says.
She was waiting for her moment to escape.
"The whole time we were in the car, I was telling him, 'I'm not going to do anything. I'm not going to do anything.' Even though in my mind, there's a 100 million ways to escape, run into this, into that. I'm thinking, 'I want to run this car into oncoming traffic.' But I'm thinking, 'He's so coked up what if he doesn't get knocked out? He's going to stab me and kill me there,'" says Tafolla.
He told her he would slice her throat if she tried to get attention of deputies driving by.
"He always had the knife on his leg. He made sure I saw it all the time, every minute I was in the car. He was asking me did I say goodbye to my daughter. But I didn't give up. I'm not going to give up. My daughters need me, so I continue driving," she says.
She was in Edinburg. That's when Garza demanded she call a friend.
"I have to tell her my car is not working and I need her help. He wanted to kidnap and rape her," she says.
They waited on Nolana for a few minutes, and then he told her to drive to a convenience store next door.
"He was telling me he was going to get out of the vehicle and that I better not run. If I wasn't there, he would kill me and my daughter," says Tafolla.
She took the opportunity to escape once he walked into the store.
"I get out of the car and I start running, there was a truck leaving. I'm telling him hysterically 'I've been kidnapped. Call 911.' I couldn't have said 911 enough times. He says, 'No, get off the car' in Spanish 'I don't want to deal with this.' I looked at him with a surprised face, 'Are you serious?' If there is anything I'll remember about this, the first thing I remember was the man who told me no. I ran across Nolana. I don't remember looking at the cars. I just went straight running for my life," says Tafolla.
She ran up to a couple pumping gas. When she first asked for help, the man and woman did nothing. Then they dialed 911.
"He's like, 'There's a lady here who says she's been kidnapped and something about dead bodies.' I'm in the background saying, 'Give me the phone. Give me the phone. Let me tell them what's happening.' I'm worried about my daughter and he's going to come and kill her by the time I come home. She's going to be stabbed in my bed. That's what's going through my mind," she says.
She saw the friend she called for help pass by. She begged the couple to take her to her friend. The women drove to Andrea's house.
"I run in and I'm yelling my daughter's name, and she answers. A sigh of relief, it's over. It was over and she was safe. I collapsed crying on the ground, because I had survived and I had saved my daughter. Never in a million years did I think if I was put in this situation I would react the way I did," she says.
Tafolla is now telling her story to inspire other women. She says she's going to live life the way she always has with purpose and passion. She has graduated from South Texas College with her associate's degree. She says she plans to walk across the stage one more time with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. She wants to work with women in domestic violence situations.