‘He remained true to himself on death row’: Death penalty abolitionist tells her brother’s story

Even after 25 years on death row, Louis Castro Perez remained happy and hopeful. 

By Patrick M. DavisJuly 10, 2024 4:34 pm, ,

25 years ago, a Travis County jury found Louis Castro Perez guilty of murdering two of his friends – Michelle Fulwiler and Cinda Barz – along with Barz’s 9-year-old daughter, Staci Mitchell. Perez was sentenced to death. 

In May, Perez died of health issues while still on death row. He maintained his innocence until his final days and Perez’s lawyers continue to fight for his exoneration. But no one has fought for Perez’s freedom more than his sister, death penalty abolitionist, Delia Perez Meyer. 

The women and young girl were murdered on Sept. 10, 1998. A friend of Meyer’s called the following day asking if she had seen her brother. The friend told Meyer about the murders and that she had seen Perez’s picture on the news. He was the only suspect.

“And that was the introduction to this nightmare,” Meyer said.

Perez was a frequent visitor to Fulwiler and Barz’s house, where the murders happened. He had stayed the night at the house the day before the murders. He went out with another friend the morning of Sept. 10 and returned to the house later in the day.

“Around 5:30 that evening, he opened the door and found Cinda on the floor,” Meyer said. “He picked her up and she scratched him and that’s basically what sent him to death row.” 

Perez had been drinking and using drugs before he returned to the house. At his trial, Perez testified that he had been spooked by the grisly scene and fled.

“My brother walked away from that house that day, rather than calling 911,” Meyer said. “And everybody, including the police, jumped to conclusions.”

Perez’s friend and spiritual advisor Dorothy Ruelas gifted this quilt to Meyer after Perez’s death. Courtesy of Delia Perez Meyer

Meyer and her other siblings gathered at their mother’s house, waiting for Perez to call. Their mother was worried that Perez may have been murdered as well. A couple days after the murders, the phone rang.

“And the first thing Louis said to my mother was ‘I didn’t do that,’” Meyer said. “And he said it in Spanish – ‘yo no lo hice.’”

According to Meyer, the trial moved quickly. Perez testified but Meyer said he wasn’t allowed to say much.

Perez’s DNA was all over the house but it wasn’t on any of the murder weapons. District Attorney Claire Dawson-Brown’s case relied heavily on circumstantial evidence. But Meyer said Dawson-Brown’s presentation of the evidence was “like a Broadway play.”

Ultimately, the DA’s case convinced the jury and Perez was sentenced to death.  

Perez spent a year at Travis County Jail before being transferred to the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas. That’s where Meyer would visit her brother every Thursday for the next 25 years.

Despite his death sentence, Perez kept the sense of humor he was known for.

“I visited him every Thursday, because Tuesday was ice cream day and he didn’t want me to come on ice cream day,” Meyer said. “He was a jokester; we always laughed when I visited.”

Although her brother was locked up three and a half hours away, Meyer said in many ways, their relationship stayed the same. Perez remained the same happy and hopeful person Meyer grew up with.

“He knew in his heart he was innocent,” Meyer said. “And so that’s the way he lived his life.”

Perez’s ability to remain positive on death row earned him many friends and supporters both at the Polunsky Unit and throughout the death penalty abolition community.

When Perez died, Meyer received an outpouring of cards, emails and phone calls from fellow inmates and supporters around the world. Meyer said her brother will be remembered not for his prison sentence, but for his integrity.

”The legacy he has left behind is that he remained true to himself and who he was on death row,” Meyer said.

While Meyer misses her brother, after 26 years of fighting for his life, she also feels a sense of freedom.

“I don’t have to worry about him,” Meyer said. “I know that he is safely with the angels.”

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