Grape Creek Murder Trial Reveals Salazar's History of Extramarital Affairs

 

SAN ANGELO, TX — What began as a love triangle morphed into a love pentagon in the punishment phase of the Grape Creek murder trial Wednesday, when witnesses testified to defendant Matthew Salazar’s adulterous past.

“His relationship was born in adultery,” Assistant District Attorney Bryan Clayton said in his opening remarks. He immediately called Melanie Salazar Flores, the defendant’s first wife, to the stand and questioned her on their relationship.

Flores, who married Salazar in 2003 and divorced him in 2007, explained to the jury that her ex once had a meth problem, which contributed to the dissolving of the marriage at the end of 2007.

“I don’t recall the argument or the events,” she said, referencing an argument the couple had had in the past, “[but] it was an argument when he was either on it or coming off methamphetamine and he struck me on the head, leaving me a cauliflower ear.”

In his cross-examination of Flores, defense attorney John Stacey Young asked for elaboration on the story, asking if she remembered banging on the bathroom door three times with a knife in her hand prior to the strike.

“Kind of the Jack Nicholson thing, right?” Young probed.

Flores responded that those events were possible, yes, and she hadn’t remembered it until Young brought it up. She then continued to describe what happened after the divorce, including an attempt at reconciliation.

Following his divorce from Flores, Salazar married his second wife, a woman named Cassandra, who Flores stated was his “high school sweetheart”. The marriage only lasted approximately six months, she estimated, however before the divorce was final, Salazar and Flores attempted to reconcile their differences and come back together “for the sake of the children”.

Flores put an end to it, she said, when she found out about Salazar’s involvement with Heather Rodriguez—later to become Heather Salazar, the victim of the murder. Flores stated she knew the two were talking but hadn’t suspected anything further until she saw them driving in a vehicle together during the time he was trying to reconcile with her.

When Flores confronted him on her suspicions, “He said, yes, that he’d slept with Heather and I in the same night, and I lost my cool,” she stated.

Flores and Salazar met one another at a leadership program at the Texas Bible Institute in Columbus in 2002. An at times frequent church-goer, Salazar began volunteering as a boy’s basketball coach at TLCA, where he met Heather Rodriguez, the girl’s basketball coach.

Pastor of Tree of Life Church (TLC) and Chancellor of TLCA Walt Landers testified to the relationship between Salazar and Heather, stating that both were married when they were employed by TLCA and news of their extramarital affairs had come to his ears at a basketball tournament in Waxahachie.

“I asked them to come in and meet me and confronted them. Had they had an affair?” Landers asked. “It was pretty much matter of fact and I dismissed them.”

Landers said that Heather, at that time married to a man with the last name of Rodriguez, and Salazar, at that time married to Cassandra, ceased to attend services for a period, but then appeared off and on. Within a year, he estimated, the two approached him to perform the ceremony for their wedding at a remote location, and he obliged. The couple remained fairly active in the church up until the murder, he said.

The two appeared to be working toward a better marriage, Landers told the jury, and he remained optimistic that should Salazar overcome his drug problems and get back on track, he would be able to be a contributing member to society.

The court also heard from Salazar’s nanny, Starla Heiple, who contended that Salazar was a jealous man that continually told Heather Salazar she couldn’t trust men and she couldn’t be friends with them.

When other men were around, she said, “He would always pull her closer to him or have to have his hands near her”.

She stated that on their trip to Disneyworld, she did not have the impression anything was going on between Heather and Floyd, but stated that on the night before the murder, she received a phone call from Heather after they had gone their separate ways from Midnight Rodeo.

“If Matt asks, tell him I went to Whataburger,” Heiple repeated what Heather had told her. Heiple said she refused to be any part of it and received a phone call 10-15 minutes later during which Heather stated she was on her way home. Bradley Floyd had also gone to Midnight Rodeo that night.

The defense called several character witnesses to the stand on Wednesday, including Salazar’s brother, Peter. Reaching for a box of tissues as he spoke to the jury, Peter Salazar spoke in hushed tones.

“He’s done things that he probably shouldn’t have,” the brother began, “but he’s still got a family to raise and he’s got to be there for his two kids.”

Due to a guilty finding on the charge of first-degree murder, Salazar faces a punishment that may fall anywhere on the 5-99 year range. The jury has yet to hear all of the witness testimony from the defense, and will continue the punishment phase Thursday morning. The trial is anticipated to conclude Thursday afternoon.

Still to be decided will be whether the jury finds that Salazar acted in sudden passion, which would reduce his punishment range to two to 20 years. The state touched briefly on the subject Wednesday in their opening arguments, reminding the jury of the iPad, the confrontation and Salazar’s suspicions, then turned the argument to his own infidelity.

In response, Young stated, “I’ve heard that there’s a bit of good in the worst of us and a bit of bad in the best of us. I’m not sure what dually cheating has to do with sudden passion”.

The Grape Creek Murder Trial, as it unfolded in the Tom Green County Courthouse in August 2014:

 

 

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