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Community to remember slain sheriff’s deputy
WILLIAM J. GIBBS JR./
Reprints at wilsoncountynews.com
During a Sept. 19 visit to the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office in Floresville, Tracy Childress, granddaughter of slain Wilson County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Ollie F. “Sammy” Childress Jr., reviews newspaper clippings from the days that followed her grandfather’s Nov. 4, 1983, murder.
On Nov. 4, the community will come together to honor Deputy Ollie F. “Sammy” Childress Jr. of the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office, who gave the ultimate sacrifice on Nov. 4, 1983.
The sheriff’s office will mark the 30th anniversary of Childress’ murder in the line of duty with a memorial service set for 10 a.m. -- rain or shine -- at the Wilson County Criminal Justice Center in Floresville, which will include full honors and the retirement of his badge, No. 8326. Scheduled to speak at the event are dignitaries, including U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, and State Rep. John Kuempel.
Among those organizing the event is Tracy Childress, the deputy’s granddaughter, who was just 5 years old when the man she knew as “PawPaw Sammy” was shot to death execution-style in the trunk of his patrol car.
“I don’t have very many memories of him at all,” Tracy said. “The only memory I really have of him is in the casket. I can tell you what it looked like.”
The tragedy changed everyone in Tracy’s tightly knit family, she said. She, a once-brave child, suddenly became fearful of the dark and Tracy said she remembers being unable to sleep alone in her bedroom.
But for Tracy, whose father, uncle, and grandfather all worked in law enforcement, it became apparent growing up that she would one day do likewise. For 15 years, she has been employed by the Guadalupe County Sheriff’s Office, where she serves as a 911 dispatcher and trainer.
“My first thing is that I’m going to prevent everyone else from losing their grandpa,” Tracy said.
According to a Nov. 6, 1983, article in the San Antonio Express-News, three-year veteran Sammy Childress, 54, began his shift on that fateful day and left the sheriff’s office to begin patrol at 10:35 a.m. As he drove on S.H. 97 near Marcelina, the deputy alerted dispatch via radio that he spotted what appeared to be a disabled vehicle. It would be his last radio transmission.
Childress was overpowered by two men -- Leroy Vargas Sosa, then 17, and his uncle, then 31-year-old Pedro Solis Sosa. The men pointed a gun at the deputy, who was stripped of his uniform shirt, badge, hat, keys, and service weapon before he was handcuffed and placed into the trunk of his patrol car.
The Sosas drove to the State Bank of La Vernia on U.S. 87, where they arrived at about noon and subsequently robbed the bank of $51,038. Leroy Sosa, in his confession, said that his uncle was wearing Childress’ uniform shirt and badge, telling bank workers of the deputy’s location in the trunk and that “if anyone follows me, I’ll shoot into the back seat and kill the deputy.”
The Express-News article said that bank Vice President Wanda Von Minden reported that Pedro Sosa, who donned Childress’ uniform shirt and a red ski mask, pointed the barrel of his pistol against her abdomen and said, “I’m going to blow your brains out.”
She also reported that Pedro Sosa told her, “Lady, I’m the sheriff now.”
The men had bank employees stuff the money in a paper grocery bag. Before leaving, the two herded seven employees and four customers into Von Minden’s office and ordered them to lie on the floor and not move for 20 minutes, with one of them threatening to return to check on them.
The Sosas fled the bank and drove to a spot on Steinben Road 2 miles from the bank, according to the article. Leroy Sosa’s confession indicates that the two parked the vehicle and that his uncle opened the trunk and shot Childress in the neck at close range with the deputy’s .44-caliber revolver, before they fled in their own vehicle.
The men returned a short time later to wipe away fingerprints. Realizing Childress still was alive, Pedro Sosa reportedly shot him a second time in the neck because the deputy had seen his face. They then threw Childress’ weapon and their own gun into a creek before fleeing to San Antonio.
Pedro Sosa was arrested during a traffic stop on I-35 in San Antonio on Feb. 4, 1984. He was found guilty of capital murder in a trial in Atascosa County and sentenced to death Jan. 7, 1985. According to Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) records, the now 61-year-old currently is housed in the Allan B. Polunsky Unit in Livingston.
Since his sentence, Pedro Sosa has entered four appeals, the most recent in 2006.
Tracy Childress said she had heard that a judge commuted Pedro Sosa’s sentence 1-1/2 years ago and gave him life in prison. Deann Belicek of the 81st Judicial District Court Coordinator’s Office in Pleasanton confirmed Oct. 24 that this was not true, and that the death sentence remained intact.
Back in 2007, Pedro Sosa’s attorneys filed a motion that the sentence be overturned, based on the 2002 Atkins v. Virginia ruling, in which the U.S. Supreme Court voted 6-3 that executions of people deemed mentally retarded was cruel and unusual punishment.
At a 2008 habeas corpus hearing, the brief filed indicates that Pedro Sosa allegedly “was physically incapable of any role other than a follower.”
Belicek said reviews of the matter have been ongoing ever since, and that it will be early 2014 before another hearing will be held.
According to Pedro Sosa’s profile on WriteAPrisoner.com, the convicted murderer maintains his innocence, claiming he was at work 100 miles away. The profile also indicates that he asks for donations and that he is willing to correspond about the case with any interested party.
The Wilson County News submitted a request to correspond with Pedro Sosa about the events on the day of Childress’ killing. An automatic response indicated that messages are checked twice monthly, with the next date being Nov. 4.
Leroy Sosa, who testified against his uncle, was convicted of aggravated robbery, murder, and kidnapping Sept. 20, 1985. According to TDCJ records, he was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the murder. He currently is being held in the Alfred D. Hughes Unit in Gatesville.
The Wilson County Sheriff’s Office
will pay tribute to the memory of
Deputy Ollie: “Sammy” Childress Jr.,
Badge No. 8326
Monday, Nov. 4, 10 a.m.
Wilson County Justice Center,
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