Austin stabbing victims say attacks could be better tracked

Investigations

Investigative summary

A violent, brutal and painful way to lose a life — being stabbed. Whether random attacks or by someone the victim knows, violent aggravated assaults involving knives can be devastating. KXAN spoke to victims’ loved ones and survivors who say they hope to bring attention to what they believe is a troubling problem in the Austin area. In the process, KXAN revealed there could arguably be room for improvement in tracking these cases after discovering the Austin Police Department does not actively monitor stabbing trends in the city.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The last time Jay Lindsey saw his mother, Andrea Faye Lindsey, was about two years ago. He and his maternal grandmother took her out to eat, then bought her a few things from the store and asked her where she needed to go from there.

“She just said the bus station. So, we dropped her off there,” Jay said.

They hadn’t lived together for roughly two decades. She was living on the streets, in and out of local shelters.

“I know she does have a past, but she was trying to change,” Jay told KXAN Investigator Brittany Glas in an exclusive interview.

Jay has only a couple photographs or videos of his mother – mainly, what he has are memories, but even those are few, the 24-year-old said. He always wanted a relationship his mother, but found it difficult to foster one. Now, Jay said, he’s devastated he’ll never have the chance.

“It’s not fair. That’s the hardest thing for me, really. A son and mother should have a relationship. I feel like that was taken from me,” Jay said. “My mom doesn’t have a voice. I can be her voice.”

It’s the first time he’s spoken publicly about his mother’s murder since she was stabbed to death on Dec. 15, 2017. She was 43 years old.

“She wasn’t around a whole lot in my life, but the moments that she was, were very special to me,” Jay explained. “She was a strong woman. She loved her family, but I know she had problems she was going through. But, the things that happened to her, nobody deserves.”

Jay says his mother struggled with depression, so his grandparents ultimately raised him from a young age, in her place.

“Life just got the best of her,” he said.

The death of Jay’s mom, Andrea, became the site of an officer-involved shooting early one Friday morning, when Austin police received multiple calls about a man assaulting a woman outside an apartment at 5007 Lynnwood Street. Witnesses said they saw the suspect, Aubrey Quentin Garrett, 51, stab Andrea repeatedly in the head.

Despite responding Austin police officers commanding Garrett to stop, he didn’t listen and “tossed patio furniture and continued the knife attack on the victim who was on the ground,” according to an arrest affidavit.

Aubrey Quentin Garrett (APD Photo)

An officer shot Garrett to defend the victim. Garrett was taken to the hospital and survived. Andrea died on the scene.

Until last week, Garrett remained in the Travis County Jail on a $1 million bond on a first-degree murder charge. On Feb. 8, he pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to 40 years in prison. Garrett will be eligible for parole in 20 years.

Police said drugs were involved in this case and the suspect and victim knew each other.

“I just felt the world fall out from underneath my feet. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t process it. All I could do is try to be there for my grandma,” Jay said, after learning the violent circumstances surrounding his mother’s death. “I just remember being lost in my head, just trying to get a grip on reality, not wanting to believe the facts of what had happened.”

Now, Jay wants to bring attention to what he believes is becoming a growing danger in the community — stabbings and violent aggravated assaults.

“You have to take it back to the core, I believe. Why are these things even happening? What is provoking people to the point to where they feel they need to get physical with somebody else to where they get injured or even worse, their life can end up being on the line? People’s emotions have gone unchecked. They go crazy, you know,” Jay said. “I want the public to know that this is a very real thing that happens.”

Delving into the data

Since 2016, there have been 12 people stabbed to death in Austin. That includes the first two homicides of 2019.

The first fatal stabbing this year occurred at the Villa at Quail Creek Apartment complex located in the 9000 block of N. Lamar Blvd. When authorities arrived at the apartments on Jan. 20, they found the victim, 49-year-old Pedro Calcalel, with multiple stab wounds. Calcalel underwent immediate emergency surgery but was pronounced dead the next day.

APD said the victim was taking out the trash and when he returned to his apartment, he was stabbed. Police are looking for as many as three male suspects who are described as Hispanic with dark complexions or black men who speak Spanish. The victim reportedly did not know the men.

Just five days after the first one, the second fatal stabbing of the year occurred, killing 18-year-old Anderson High School student Carson Smith. Two eighth graders, 13 and 15 years old, were arrested in connection to the stabbing. The suspects were both Murchison Middle School students at some point this year.

A majority of the 10 fatal stabbings that happened from 2016 to 2018 involved drugs and alcohol, three involved family violence and one involved prostitution. In all of the cases, the deadly injuries were caused by a knife — a readily available weapon.

Stabbing victim/suspect relationships (2016-2018)

  • 40 percent: acquaintances or known people
  • 30 percent: family members or roommates
  • 20 percent: strangers
  • 10 percent: unknown

Austin police say a large majority of these assaults begin when emotions are running high.

“There’s an argument that precedes the disturbance that resulted in an altercation, and the altercation escalated to the point where one of the persons used a knife to stab somebody and that person died,” Austin Police Assistant Chief Ely Reyes said.

Only one of the fatal stabbing cases is unsolved, while ninety percent of those cases were cleared. Reyes said that’s due in large part to the level of work and dedication of the homicide investigators at the department.

“A 90 percent clearance rate for homicides in a major city like this is really good work that our detectives are doing,” he explained, proudly. “We have one of the highest clearance rates in the country when it comes to homicides. If you commit murder in a major city, the odds of you getting away with it are pretty good. But that’s not the case in Austin.”

Over the last six years, 26 people have died due to stabbings. There were five fatal stabbings in 2013 and again in 2014; four annually in 2015, 2016 and 2017; two in 2018; and two so far in 2019. 

Between 2013 and 2018, there were more than 4,000 aggravated assault cases in which a knife or sharp object was listed as the weapon involved, according to data KXAN obtained through an open records request to APD. These cases include those where someone was stabbed and those where someone was threatened with a knife, but not stabbed. 

There is a general climb in the number of cases. For example, in 2015, there were 495 cases and in 2017, the largest peak was documented at 627 cases. 

In critiquing the same data, the number of homicides involving such weapons has largely remained flat, with anywhere from two to five fatal stabbing cases each year each of the past five years. 

Reyes says he believes better quality and greater access to medical care in Austin is a contributing factor toward preventing stabbing victims from dying. 

Tracking stabbings in Austin 

Although KXAN requested “stabbing data” in our initial records requests, we soon learned APD does not separately or actively monitor stabbings — by definition — separate from how other caseload is tracked, so we were presented with challenges when analyzing the data.

Because of our public information requests, APD took a deeper dive into stabbing homicides by querying their database.

APD tells KXAN News that the sheer number of overall aggravated assault stabbing cases that do not end in homicide are so frequent that tracking them is not something they’ve really done.

“It would benefit us to be able to know exactly how many we have. But, being able to take a deep dive into that data is going to take a lot of work,” Reyes said.

At the end of the day, he said it’s about getting justice for victims. 

“For our investigators, you know, they’re focused on justice and for them, it doesn’t matter if [a stabbing incident] was a knife or a bottle, or an ice pick, they want justice for that victim and they’re going to file the charge, and they’re going to work the case the same manner,” he said. 

2015 Hyde Park stabbing

“I might be one tick on that roster, but I’m still a person and it’s important to keep these people’s lives accounted for, and that’s why tracking these is so important, to see not only a trend but possibly what you can do to prevent it,” said Katie, who survived an attack by a knife-wielding stranger. “It’s not to say that this is lesser of a crime because the butter knife that you have in your house can do it and a gun is harder to come by. It’s still people’s lives.”

Nov. 14, 2015, was a Saturday. Early that morning, Katie, who we’re not identifying by last name for her own protection and confidentiality, was stabbed 21 times in Austin’s Hyde Park. She said she was doing all the right things that a mother teaches her daughter to do to be and stay safe. 

Katie was sitting outside with a friend, talking. It was light outside. People in the neighborhood were out and about jogging and walking their dogs. She wasn’t out too late or past dark doing things she shouldn’t be.

As if out of nowhere, her attacker approached her and began stabbing her. Katie’s will to live — her innate survival instincts — kicked in, despite an initial sense of shock, and she tried to reason with the woman. She fought back and once it was over, administered first aid on her wounds. Katie survived. 

“This has made such a big impact on my life. I mean, I still suffer from day-to-day repercussions of what happened,” she said.  

Pearl Moen (APD Photo)

Although it would take about three months to find the attacker, Pearl Moen, 21, was arrested for the crime. Moen ultimately pleaded guilty to attempted murder in Katie’s attack. Diary entries found in Moen’s home said she wanted to know what it would feel like to kill someone. She fled the scene believing she had. 

“With the journals that she wrote, the pictures that she drew, this was a sport to her,” Katie said. 

And, although there was a point in Katie’s recovery where she was unsure whether she’d regain full function in her hands and arms, and questioned whether she would be able to continue working as a nurse, the effect of her attack goes far beyond her long-standing nerve pain and other physical injuries. 

“Being back in the city that I consider my home is not easy because it reminds me of all of these things,” she said. “There’s the emotional and the psychological impact too.” 

Katie lived in Austin, just like hundreds of other survivors of aggravated assault, and wonders whether combing through those cases may be crucial in preventing more stabbing deaths and violent stabbing attacks like the one she endured. 

“Something has to change. This is going to keep happening unless stabbings that don’t always end in homicide are not only accounted for, but they’re also taken seriously,” Katie added.

“It’s almost a disservice saying that, ‘Oh, I guess I should have died and then this would be taken seriously.’ Do I need to die for it to be taken seriously?”

Although Katie appreciates and credits APD and the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association for helping bring her attacker to justice, she said she wants to be an advocate for others who could one day becomes victims, too. 

“Something has to change. This is going to keep happening unless stabbings that don’t always end in homicide are not only accounted for, but they’re also taken seriously,” Katie added. 

Although APD has a lot of stabbing calls, the department says it has noticed a higher increase in the number of incidents involving firearms. APD says firearm violence has steadily increased in recent years. It is something that is tracked across the country, too. 

Austin police data KXAN obtained revealed that in 2017, about 64 percent of the city’s homicides involved firearms. In 2018, that number was 65 percent. 

APD’s new aggravated assault unit 

In recognizing just how common aggravated assault cases have become in Austin, Reyes said the department chose to create a specialized “aggravated assault unit” at the beginning of the year. APD now has a group of eight detectives and a sergeant whose sole focus is to follow up on and investigate these aggravated assaults. 

“An aggravated assault, I characterize it as one inch or two inches away from a murder because it just means that they didn’t hit the right artery, or they didn’t hit the right organ,” Reyes said. “But the seriousness of the injuries and the crime is still at that same level.” 

Reyes said police recognize some of those aggravated assaults could easily and quickly turn into homicides if the victim dies. 

That’s why Reyes said the new aggravated assault unit is working hand-in-hand with APD’s homicide unit. The unit operates out of APD headquarters in downtown Austin and works down the hall from the homicide unit.

“Having that team effort focused on those types of crimes is going to give them a better level of expertise, a better understanding of those cases, and, hopefully, bring those victims to justice.”

APD says the new unit will give detectives the ability to dive deeper into each case, gathering evidence, conducting interviews and studying trends across Austin.

Whether a weapon was used and the extent of a victim’s injuries will determine which assaults will be overseen by the newly-formed unit. 

Recent changes to Texas knife laws

On Sept. 1, 2017, Texans were able to open carry Bowie knives, swords, daggers and spears. Bowie knives are still illegal to carry on any school campus in Texas. However, Texas House Bill 1935 made it legal to carry Bowie knives and other larger knives in more places around the state.

Lori Brown’s son Harrison was killed in a random stabbing attack in May 2017 on the University of Texas campus. Police say the attacker, Kendrex White, 22,  used a “bowie-style” hunting knife in that fatal stabbing.

Last year, White was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the stabbing spree that killed Harrison and injured three other people.

Medics tend to UT stabbing victim following multiple stabbing on campus Monday.

Lori Brown has since publicized her disapproval of what some say are increasingly relaxed knife laws in the state. She shared her continued concerns over those laws and security on college campuses with Gov. Greg Abbott’s office.

“I have nothing to lose. I will not take ‘no’ for an answer,” Brown told KXAN in an April 2018 interview. “If something like [the stabbing attack] happens again, I just don’t know what I would do.” 
“In my opinion, [HB 1935] totally disregards Harrison and how he died and his murder. It really did feel like a slap in the face,” Brown said.

Gov. Abbott signed HB 1935 into law in June 2017 – a little more than a month after the UT stabbing. 
“I’m hoping to maybe repeal, or amend, or maybe poke some holes into House Bill 1935,” Brown said. “In addition to that, I’d also like to see some changes made – on college campuses, university campuses and with this House Bill – that prevent knives, Bowie knives, swords, machetes from getting into the wrong hands and coming onto campus.”

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Clear the Shelters

More Clear the Shelters

Trending Stories

Don't Miss