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Wednesday, May 13, 1998

Valley woman convicted in murder-for-hire trial

By MARK BABINECK / Associated Press Writer

HOUSTON (AP) -- A federal jury on Tuesday convicted a Brownsville woman in the murder-for-hire plot that resulted in the death of her daughter's ex-boyfriend.

Dora Cisneros, who was accused of hatching a plot in which telephone calls and travel from Mexico were involved in the 1993 death of 18-year-old Joey Fischer, had no visible reaction to the verdict. The victim's mother and stepmother sobbed at the decision, which came after about three hours of deliberations.

"We're relieved," said Vernon "Beau" Nelson, Fischer's stepfather. "This woman is a murderer of children. She needs to be put away. Joey finally got some justice today."

Joey Fischer broke off his relationship with Mrs. Cisneros' youngest daughter in the summer of 1992. On March 3, 1993, he was shot to death in the driveway of his home as he washed off his car before school.

Mrs. Cisneros was sentenced to life in prison in 1994 following a murder conviction in state court. However, an error in jury instructions won her an acquittal from an appeals court in 1996.

To make a federal case, prosecutors this time had to prove Mrs. Cisneros was involved in a plot that included travel and phone calls from nearby Mexico. She didn't need to know about the "foreign commerce" under the statute.

She could face up to life in prison when she is sentenced July 27 in Houston. Until then, she'll remain at the nearby Montgomery County Jail without bond.

"My son's murderer is going where she belongs," said A.J. Fischer, the boy's father. "We've been here before. Hopefully what was done today, will stand."

Mrs. Cisneros' family and defense attorneys declined to comment on the verdict. Prosecutor Assistant U.S. Attorney Mervyn Mosbacker said he was pleased with the quick decision.

In both trials, prosecutors presented witnesses who testified that Mrs. Cisneros first asked a folk healer to cast a fatal spell on Fischer for breaking up with her daughter. The fortuneteller, Maria Mercedes Martinez, says she declined, prompting Mrs. Cisneros to inquire if Ms. Martinez knew anyone who could kill Fischer.

That's when Ms. Martinez set the wheels in motion through Daniel Garza, a lovelorn San Antonio housepainter who had sought Ms. Martinez' help for marital troubles.

Ms. Martinez, 77, is serving a 20-year prison term for her role.

Garza, serving a life sentence for finding the two gunmen who shot Fischer, testified he discussed the plot with the folk healer during four phone calls he made from Mexico. However, there is no documentation the calls were made.

Also, prosecutors said testimony by U.S. Customs officials, a motel manager and witnesses at the crime scene pinpointed a white car driven by the suspected gunmen as having come over from Mexico the day before the shooting.

"All we have to prove is somebody came from Mexico to the United States to commit this murder. And we did that," Assistant U.S. Attorney Mervyn Mosbacker told jurors in his final arguments Tuesday.

Despite 5-1/2 days of testimony and piles of circumstantial evidence, lead defense attorney Tony Canales told jurors they hadn't seen enough proof to meet federal standards.

"I submit to you that a clear conscience dictates that proof beyond a reasonable doubt was not met," he told the jury. "Whether you like it or not ... you've got to do the right thing."

The suspected killers are jailed in Mexico and did not appear in the courtroom in Houston, where the case was moved by U.S. District Judge Filemon Vela because of intense publicity in the Rio Grande Valley.

Mrs. Cisneros did not testify in her own defense.

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