Sadly, not every marriage is built to last. Most people opt for divorce — but James Guevara did something far more sinister to his wife, Velia Guevara, when he wanted the relationship to end. His mistress, Minnie Salinas, was happy to help.
Velia Acosta Guevara was born in San Antonio, Texas in 1960. She was one of three girls and grew up in a tight-knit Catholic family. Velia was adored by those who knew her.
“She was just lovely. That’s the only way to describe the person that I remember,” friend Melisa Skinner told Oxygen’s “Snapped,” airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen.
Velia earned a college degree in education and became a kindergarten teacher. Her students loved her and she hoped to have children of her own one day. When Velia met James "Jim" George Guevara, a man who worked at a local newspaper, she thought he would make all her dreams come true.
James proposed to Velia in 1990. They rented an apartment together in San Antonio and talked about starting their family, but those plans were put on hold when the newspaper Jim worked at, the San Antonio Light, shut down in early 1993. Then, a shocking tragedy occurred.
On the afternoon of May 26, 1993, James said he came home to find his wife on the floor of their apartment. “He saw Velia on her back. She was unresponsive and stiff and pale. He called 911,” prosecutor David Lunan told “Snapped.”
Velia was pronounced dead at the scene. She had been shot three times in the stomach, The Associated Press reported in 2006. Police didn't think it looked like a robbery.
“I suspected that Velia maybe knew the person that shot her,” former San Antonio Police Detective Daniel Gonzales told producers. “We also suspected that maybe she had walked in and the person that shot and killed her had already been there basically waiting for her.”
Naturally, suspicion fell on the husband, but James had an airtight alibi. He had spent the morning golfing with friends and later went to the San Antonio Light to look over job postings, according to court documents.
However, investigators found a single .9 mm shell casing near Velia’s body. More spent .9 mm casings were found inside a closet. Inside James' car, investigators found more empty shell casings and a receipt for a .9 mm handgun from a local pawn shop, which raised red flags.
In James' initial statement to police, he was asked if he or his wife were involved in extramarital affairs. He claimed they were not, and insisted he kept the empty shells for his brother-in-law to reload and that the gun receipt was for a weapon he had yet to pick up.
So, detectives looked over the events of the day of the murder for clues.
A medical examiner had determined Velia had been murdered sometime between 10 a.m. and 12:00 p.m., according to court documents. Around 9:30 a.m. on the morning of the murder, several calls came into the office of the Guevaras’ apartment complex to say a car in the back parking lot had its lights on. The car in question belonged to Velia and a message was left for her. Velia checked on the vehicle, but found the lights were off.
Shortly thereafter, an unknown woman came into the office of the apartment building asking to use the phone.
“She seemed kind of startled when we asked if we could help her,” former apartment manager Shelley Stelzer told producers.
The woman was then seen wandering around the grounds of the complex.
“She seemed to be kind of watching the building where Velia’s apartment was,” former prosecutor Bill Pennington told producers.
Detectives were suspicious of this woman, and knew they needed to find her — especially when they spoke to Velia's coworkers and learned she was being harassed before her death.
“This person would call and ask for her and usually hang up when Velia got on the phone. Sometimes she would speak with her,” Gonzales told producers. “The principal said she could see that whatever was said obviously upset Velia.”
A lead into the woman's identity came just a day after the murder, when a woman named Tina Timmerman contacted authorities. She claimed James was having an affair with her friend Minnie Salinas.
Timmerman also said Salinas asked her to lie about borrowing a .9 mm gun from her, according to court documents. According to Timmerman, when she asked why, Salinas claimed to be in possession of a .9 mm gun owned by James Guevara.
Investigators were suspicious of Salinas and even more so when Stelzer later identified Salinas as the woman hanging around the Guevaras’ apartment complex on the morning of Velia’s murder.
James was subsequently interviewed by detectives and admitted having an affair with Salinas.
“In fact, the first time that Jim Guevara and Minnie Salinas engaged in sexual intercourse was two or three days before Jim and Velia were married,” Pennington told producers.
Minnie Bronte Salinas was born in 1963 in the small town of Sebastian, Texas. As an adult she became an executive secretary in the circulation department of the San Antonio Light newspaper. When she started work, Salinas was married with two children, but after she divorced her husband she began dressing provocatively and flirting with men at the office, co-workers claimed. It was around this time she met James at the paper and started a sexual relationship with him.
Detectives then interviewed Salinas, who also owned up to the affair.
“She said that she had given Jim an ultimatum, by June 1, to decide about their relationship, whether Jim wanted to be with her or whether he wanted to be with Velia,” Gonzales told “Snapped.”
However, Salinas denied threatening Velia and claimed she was at the doctor’s office at the time of the murder, providing a printed medical record (Investigators would later determine Salinas altered the document to fit her story, according to court documents.). When confronted with the eyewitness accounts of her presence at the crime scene, Salinas became belligerent and stormed out of the interview.
Police arrested Salinas in Aug. 1993, hoping she would flip on James. She didn’t.
“She was basically silent. Cold as ice. She wouldn’t answer any questions,” Gonzales told producers.
The District Attorney dismissed the case against her, believing it relied too heavily on circumstantial evidence. So, Gonzales left the case open, biding his time.
“I felt we had the right people from the start and we just needed somebody with the will and the political backbone to take a tough case to trial,” Gonzales told producers.
In 1995 Velia’s parents sued James when he tried to claim a $50,000 life insurance policy Velia had through her work. The suit eventually split the payment between both parties, but during James' deposition he claimed he hadn’t been in contact with Minnie Salinas in several years. It was a massive lie.
“10 days after the settlement of that lawsuit Danny Gonzales discovered that James Guevara and Minnie Salinas were married in Las Vegas, Nevada,” Lunan told “Snapped.”
In fact, Salinas was pregnant with his child at the time.
“It just seems to tie everything together, what the motive for this murder was about: Jim wanted to be with Minnie,” Gonzales told producers.
Police believed James and Salinas worked in tandem to plot Velia’s death. They theorized Velia was drawn outside when she went to check on her car, at which point Minnie snuck in to the home and laid in wait.
When a new district attorney took over in 1999, Gonzales presented the case against James Guevara and Minnie Salinas. A grand jury would then indict the couple for the murder of Velia Guevara.
James Guevara went on trial in 2000. He was found guilty as a party to the murder of his wife, Velia Guevara, and sentenced to life in prison and fined $10,000, according to court documents. In 2005, his conviction was overturned due to a trial error. He was retried in 2006 and once again found guilty of Velia Guevara’s murder and sentenced to life in prison, the San Antonio Express-News reported at the time.
While Minnie Salinas’ July 2000 trial ended in a hung jury, her second trial in March 2001 resulted in a murder conviction. Salinas was sentenced to 50 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, court documents state.
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