The story begins over 275 years ago with the arrival in San Antonio in 1740 of a young journeyman mason named Antonio de Tello who was hired for the monumental task of designing and building stone churches for four of the missions there. He seemed up for the job because by 1744 he had projects well underway at Missions Valero, Concepcion, San Juan, and Espada. At Mission San Francisco de la Espada the stone sacristy (priest's "ready room") had been built in anticipation of it being joined to the large church who's foundations had been dug and its walls started. Tello, a mason by trade, had already rough cut the stones that were to be the doorway to this grand edifice.
In the late summer of 1744 the course of history at all of the missions changed forever with a single act of passion. While a man named Matias Trevino had been away on an extended trip to Mexico, Tello had been carrying on an affair with his wife, 30 year old Rosa Guerra. He had even built her a small house to live in and spent quite a bit of time there. Upon his return, Trevino moved into the house with Rosa and forbade Tello from ever coming back. Within a few days Tello lured Trevino out into the woods, shot him in the chest at close range, beat him about the head with the pistol, and left him for dead. Incredibly Trevino survived long enough to make it to a friends house and implicated Tello in his murder with his dying breath. The criminal investigationthat followed would have withstood the rigors of our court system today. Tello, who had taken refuge in the unfinished church at Valero, claimed that in the dark he thought Trevino was an Apache Indian and shot him in self defense. The investigator quickly pointed out that it had been a particularly clear night and that powder burns on Trevino's clothes and in his wound indicated a point blank discharge. When they went to arrest him the next day he had escaped in the night never to be heard from again.
Page from the criminal deposition against Antonio Tello. To see the entire translated transcript click here and download the PDF.
During Tello's testimony to the Alcalde of San Fernando de Bexar (predecessor of current day San Antonio) concerning the murder allegations against him we find out five things:
1) He was 31 years old at the time
2) He was from Zacatecas (Mexico)
3) He said he was a Spanish citizen
4) When asked to sign his name he replied that he did not know how, which might imply he was illiterate.
5) He was not a very good liar. He denied his relations with Rosa despite the fact that there had been numerous complaints about "objectionable behavior", and he lied about accidentally shooting Matias.