Convicted killer found dead with girlfriend
By Caty Hirst
Oct. 28, 2012 at 5:28 a.m.
Updated Oct. 29, 2012 at 5:29 a.m.
When a 72-year-old Port Aransas woman was beaten to death with a pool cue in 1978, her family did all they could to put the guilty teen behind bars forever.
Bennie Ray Dupnik Jr., then 16, was convicted of capital murder in 1979 for the death of Gladys "Shorty" Fowler, owner of Shorty's Place, and sentenced to life in prison.
When Dupnik came up for parole in 2007, Joy George, Fowler's granddaughter, petitioned the Texas Parole Board to keep him behind bars.
"It is hard enough for our family to have to go through that, and I just can't even imagine another family having to go through the same thing over the same man because they didn't see any danger. They didn't see that he was just a threat - someone that would kill an innocent, little old lady the way he did," George said.
She said she was never told about the 2010 parole hearing, and Dupnik was released.
He then moved to Victoria and lived a quiet life, his father, Bennie Ray Dupnik Sr., said Sunday.
The quiet was shattered Saturday.
Dupnik, now 51, and his girlfriend, Sandra Ann Rivera, 44, were found dead in their apartment Saturday night in the 300 block of Grant Street, said Lt. Caleb Breshears, of the Victoria Police Department.
Breshears said the deceased suffered apparent stab wounds.
Boyd Zack Martinez, Rivera's son who lived a few doors down from the couple, said they had been worried about Rivera since early Saturday morning.
"We had been knocking all day, and we realized it wasn't like her not to answer. So around 6 p.m. we decided it was time to bust in and see what is going on. So when we busted in, that is when we saw them like that," Martinez said about finding the bodies.
"It looked like he did something to her, and I'm not sure what, but it looked like he did something to her and then cut his wrists. But I'm still waiting on the autopsy report," Martinez said.
The cause of death has not been determined, said Sgt. Eline Moya, and both bodies were sent to the Travis County Medical Examiner's Office in Austin.
"It is just - I saw something that I never would have expected I would see. I saw my mom in a way I never thought I'd see her. It is something you would see on TV or something, and that is the last thing I expected," Martinez said. "And I had to walk out of the room and walk back in a second time just to let myself know it was true. And now I'm just thinking, 'Why? Why me? Why my mom?'"
George, who is now running Shorty's Place in Port Aransas, said Dupnik should never have been released from prison.
"I really do have a real grief for the family in Victoria that is having to go without their mother, sister, grandmother, relative. That they had to suffer from the same man - that is just unforgivable by the parole board. They are to blame for that one," George said.
Rivera had lived in the apartment with Dupnik for one or two months, off and on, Martinez said. He said the couple had not been dating long, and the family did not know Dupnik well.
Martinez said Dupnik worked nights and was quiet. He did not know about Dupnik's previous conviction before Saturday.
"Everything seemed fine. All couples have their disagreements, but it was nothing serious," Martinez said.
Dupnik's father said he did not know his son well either.
"He spent most of his life in the penitentiary; he has only been out a couple of years. He lived in Victoria. I lived in Rockport. So I really can't tell you a whole lot," his father said.
Bennie Ray Dupnik Sr. said his son did not seem angry after getting out of prison.
"I talked to him. I tried to call him four or five times recently. He never answered, and I said, 'Well he must be working,'" his father said. "Then my grandson who lives in Rockport called me today and said ... he had passed away. I heard he committed suicide - whether he did or not, I don't know."
Martinez, one of Rivera's four sons, said the family was in shock.
"I woke up this morning hoping it was just a dream. Nobody would have ever expected it. Her life was taken too soon - she was 44. she was about to turn 45 next month. To her, she felt like she was 20," Martinez said.
Felecia Rivera, the victim's niece, said she lived for her family, including her two grandsons, ages 3 and 1.
"When I think of her? Her smile. She was a very beautiful lady. Ever since I was little they said I look like her," Felecia Rivera said. "Now, I have to look in the mirror, and it is just me."
Detective Amy Grothe is investigating the case, and Justice of the Peace Richard Castillo performed the inquest.
Felecia Rivera said the family was planning a benefit to help cover funeral costs, possibly to take place at Longhorn Saloon, where Rivera worked.
"The way it happened . with domestic violence, and this is something that needs to be known," her niece said. "We aren't going to let it be OK that she passed away."