Judge Cinderela Guevara, also known as Cindy Rice Guevara, is the Texas judge who announced Justice Antonin Scalia’s cause of death without seeing his body or ordering an autopsy. Who is Judge Guevara? Why did she decide an autopsy wasn’t necessary? Has she done anything like this before? Guevara was a justice of the peace for 25 years before being elected as Presidio County’s first female county judge. One of her past cause of death rulings for a different case also generated quite a bit of controversy.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. She Announced Scalia’s Cause of Death & Said There Was No Need for an Autopsy, Without Seeing His Body
Guevara’s ruling about Scalia’s death was controversial because she announced the cause of death without seeing his body. Although this is allowed by Texas law, many questioned her decision. According to WFAA 8, Guevara said she was shopping in the nearby town of Alpine when the Presidio County Sheriff called her and said a Supreme Court Justice had passed away at Cibolo Creek Ranch and he needed someone there immediately because both justices of the peace were out of town. For the next 20 minutes, they called back and forth because cell reception was spotty in that area. She pronounced him dead over the phone at 1:52 pm and planned to drive to the ranch. However, she turned back when a U.S. Marshal told her it wasn’t necessary and they only needed to know if Scalia needed an autopsy. She told WFAA that she asked the sheriff if there were any signs of foul play and he said no.
Scalia’s doctor called her around 8 p.m. that night and said he had done an MRI on Scalia a few days earlier and felt comfortable with knowing what had happened to him. The MRI was for a shoulder injury, but Scalia had several chronic ailments too. At that point, Guevara said she felt comfortable not requesting an autopsy.
2. Media Reports Said Guevara Misspoke About Scalia’s Dying of a Heart Attack
Early media reports stated that Guevara had ruled Scalia died of a heart attack. But exactly what Guevara had said is a bit confusing. According to WFAA, Guevara told them that Scalia’s heart stopped beating in his sleep, hours after telling them that a heart attack would likely be the cause of death. However, The Washington Post reported that she said she didn’t tell anyone that he died of a heart attack. Meanwhile, Reuters reported that Guevara had said in an interview that she misspoke when telling WFAA that Scalia died of a heart attack. Instead, she said he would be reported as dying of natural causes.
Whatever exactly happened, Guevara chose not to order an autopsy. Juanita Bishop, a justice of the peace in Presidio, Texas, said that she would have ordered an autopsy if she had been the one to respond to the call, The Washington Post reported.
3. She Was Elected Presidio County’s First Female Justice of the Peace and First Female County Judge
Guevara has a long history of making history. She was elected as Presidio County Judge in March 2014, when she gained the distinctive title of being the county’s first Mexican American woman to hold that position, Big Bend Now reported. Guevara won the election after serving for 25 years as the Presidio County Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace. When she was elected justice of the peace, she also made history by being the first woman elected to that position in the county, News West 9 reported.
Guevara doesn’t believe in playing favorites. She told the Express News that if she was elected to the top county position, she hoped it would be because of her fairness. “I hope people see that I treated everyone the same, and that is what helped me to become county judge,” she said.
4. When Guevara Ruled that a Young Woman’s Death Was a Suicide in 2013, Her Decision Was Very Controversial
This isn’t the first time Guevara has been the source of controversy. In 2013, Melaney Parker Rayburn was found dead after being hit by a train in Marfa, Texas. She had just been married a few months earlier. Liz Parker, Melaney’s mom, questioned how Guevara handled the investigation of her daughter’s death, The Daily Kos reported. Melaney was hit by a Union Pacific Railroad train and, Liz wrote, a Union Pacific representative told her that it appeared that her body had been placed on the tracks while she was unconscious. Liz asked the Justice of the Peace and the Sheriff to open the case as a homicide investigation, but they would not. Guevara, who was a Justice of the Peace at the time, did not order a rape kit or an autopsy, Liz wrote, because a doctor at the scene said the cause of death was obvious.
Liz later wrote a letter to the editor, published in Big Bend Now, in which she said that Guevara had asked for God to give her an answer about whether Melaney’s death was suicide. Liz wrote that Guevara told her: “Yes, this was a tragedy, but the true tragedy was that she died without accepting Jesus Christ as her savior.”
Big Bend Now also published a story about the controversial investigation. Melaney’s cousin, Aspen Parker, wrote a letter to Fox News in 2013 saying that Guevara’s cause of death ruling mentioned that Melaney had submitted a letter of resignation to her employers before her death. Aspen wrote that he called Melaney’s employers and they said that wasn’t true.
5. Guevara’s a U.S. Army Veteran and a Mom
Before becoming a justice of the peace, Guevara was a in the U.S. Army, Big Bend Now reported. She also has a daughter.