CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Breanna Wood was killed in 2016.
Her mother, Fallon, has been waiting for justice for more than five years, so when she says Nueces County First Asst. District Attorney Angelica Hernandez came to her for help sorting through pre-trial evidence in the case against Joseph Tejeda — the man accused of murdering Breanna Wood — she said she jumped at the chance to help, and finally see someone pay for her daughter's death.
Wood said she had no idea what Hernandez had asked of her could potentially have the opposite effect.
“She did not say that it would jeopardize the case, but she did say, ‘Just keep this between us,” she said.
Wood said she did what any mother would.
“I wanted to do what I needed to do to help the DA’s department to get prepared or ready for my daughter’s case,” she said. “I sat on the floor for three days sorting all the interviews. everything from each name, from all seven names.”
Wood said she knows the implications of coming forward, but she feels she doesn’t have a choice.
“If this jeopardizes Breanna’s case, it’ll also save other victims and their families from having to go through what’s going on at the DA’s office,” she said.
Anything could happen
Police found Breanna's body buried in a box, covered with a white sheet and wrapped in plastic, in January 2017. Tejeda, Breanna's ex-boyfriend, was charged with capital murder and six others were arrested in connection with the crime.
Wood said Hernandez contacted her in 2021, and she worked in a small room at the DA's office, sorting and arranging boxes of evidence.
She said Hernandez made copies of video interviews with Christopher Gonzalez, who took a plea deal in connection to Breanna's murder. Wood was allowed to take those videos home, and keeps them locked in her safe.
The evidence, Wood says, also included pictures of Breanna's body.
“That’s the last image I see every night when I go to sleep, is that picture of what Breanna looked like when they found her,” Wood said.
The allegations are problematic, said St. Mary's University adjunct law professor Jason Goss.
“It would be the equivalent of putting her on a jury,” he said. “Like, what are you — you would never put her on a jury because she is somebody that can’t be a fair and impartial person.”
Evidence could include the prosecutor's notes on witness statements, the San Antonio-based trial attorney said. Allowing people closely related to victims or suspects that kind of unfettered access could lead to tampering with evidence.
“They just get pulled out and shredded and nobody ever knows like they never existed," he said. "Those are all the worries.”
He said if anyone outside of the prosecution and defense has access to evidence, anything could happen.
"People who have a vested interest in a case should not be the people who have sole or exclusive access to the evidence in the case," he said. "It's just an unacceptable practice. It's just unacceptable."
Like Goss, Tejeda's defense attorney Fred Jimenez also finds these allegations troubling.
“If that is what occurred, I think that is crossing the line,” he said.
KRIS 6 Investigates showed Jimenez photos Wood provided to support her story, and asked if the documents seen in the photos are part of the evidence he's seen.
He said they are.
“It could certainly cause Fallon to be disqualified as a witness,” he said.
For now, Wood remains on the witness list.
Wood says once she sorted through everything, she couldn’t reach Hernandez, Nueces County District Attorney Mark A. Gonzalez, or district court judge Jack Pulcher.
“I left two messages asking that I have some information that I need to tell,” Wood said. “That I need to talk to them, and I never got a return call. I sent an email to that office. It was blocked.”
In 2021, the DA's office asked to recuse itself from this case and all others related to Breanna Wood's. Pulcher also recused himself. A new judge, Manuel J. Bañales, was appointed in January 2022.
A prosecutor has not been appointed.
“It’s been five years for her,” Wood said. “It’s been over five years for him. It goes both ways, yes. He deserves his day in court, and Breanna deserves her day in court.”
KRIS 6 Investigates wanted to ask Hernandez and Gonzalez about Wood's claims and contacted them via email, even showing up at the office. Office staff said neither were there. Gonzalez later sent an email and a text, in which he said he couldn't talk about the case because of a gag order.
Wood was given unsupervised access to the evidence. Which is something that could cause a problem for the case, Goss said.
“Everybody should know, if they don’t already, that you should never do this ever,” Goss said. “Ever, ever, ever, ever let anybody associated with a case that closely look through the evidence.”
He says that the job of sorting discovery falls on the prosecutor.
"To farm it out to the person most vested in the outcome for conviction, I mean it's someone who's — you wouldn't have a defendant do that," Goss said. "You wouldn't say, 'Come on in, go through the box, look through the box,' because you know the defendant has a vested interest."
It is unknown what will happen with the case
Goss said it could end in a dismissal, or it might just be that Wood can't testify. But, either way, nothing can happen until a prosecutor is appointed.