Sunday, September 18, 2011

Diana Lumbrera, Texas Serial Child-Killing Mom - 1990

Between 1976 and 1990 Diana Lumbrera murdered seven children, all but one of them her own (Ages: 6 weeks, 2 ½ months, 5 ½ months, 3 years, 3 years, 4 years) in order to collect insurance payments. All but one was murdered in Texas; the final killing was done in Kansas.

“In Texas, authorities from Palmer, Lubbock, and Castro Counties launched new investigations, discovering that each of Diana’s children had been insured for amounts between $3,000 and $5,000. (In Melissa’s case a second insurance policy was purchased one day before she died.) Diana was the only person who observed the various convulsive episodes, and – with the exception of Jose Lionel – all were beyond help when Diana sought medical care.” [from: Michael Newton, An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers - Hunting Humans]



Nov. 30, 1976 – daughter, Joanna Lumbrera, 3 months old, Friona, Texas.
Feb. 13, 1978 – son, Luís Garza, 2 ½ months old, Friona, Texas.
Oct. 2, 1978 – daughter, Melissa Lumbrera, 3 years old, Friona, Texas.
Oct. 8, 1980 – cousin, Ericka Leonor Aleman, 6 weeks old, Muleshoe, Texas.
Aug. 17, 1982 – daughter, Melinda Lumbrera, 3 years old, Friona, Texas.
Mar. 28, 1984 – son, Christopher Daniel Marcos, 5 ½ months old, Dimmitt, Texas.
May 1, 1990 – son, Jose Antonio Lumbrera, 4 years old, Garden City, Kansas.




December 16, 1990 article – FULL TEXT: Bovina, Tex. (AP) – Friends and relatives say Diana Lumbrera cried and often fainted with grief when each of her six children died before their fifth birthday.

No one who watched ever suspected her of murdering the children.

As they were lowered into the ground one by one from 1976 to 1990, the young mother was on her knees, weeping and begging for her children to come back.

Elaborate headstones in the Bovina cemetery, where five of Mrs. Lumbrera’s children are buried, read “Darling we miss thee.”

“She was a loving mother and she took care of those kids,” said Ms. Lumbrera’s aunt, Elodia Flores. “She worked hard every day and made those kids number one in her life. I just don’t believe she killed those kids.”

The deaths of Mrs. Lumbrera’s children have law enforcement in this tiny panhandle cattle town near the New Mexico border shaking their heads.

For 14 years, authorities and child protection agencies never were suspicious as seven chiokldren, six of her own and the daughter of a cousin, died under Ms. Lumbrera’s care.

Doctors ruled the deaths natural.

Ms. Lumbrera, 32, says the the children were killed by a damning curse.

Today, Ms. Lumbrera, a former meatpacker, is a convicted murderer of her 4-year-old son.

A jury in Garden City, Kan., took only three hours last October to determine that she smothered Jose Antonio Lumbrera on May 1, 1990. She was sentenced to life in prison.

Ms. Lumbrera, who moved from Bovina to Garden City in 1985, now faces murder charges in connection with the deaths of four of her other children and the daughter of a cousin.

The death of another of her own children is under investigation.

The children’s death certificates indicate various causes of death including asphysiation by aspiration of stomach contents, heart disease and blood poisoning.

“A death certificate may say death due to heart failure. Everyone who dies suffers from heart failure,” said Parmer County Dist. Atty. Johnny Actkinson, who will prosecute in an upcoming trial.

“The question is what caused the heart failure.”

Actkinson, who has had to trudge back in time to locate doctors and witnesses familiar with the infants’ deaths, said the people issuing the death reports probably did not want to think the worst.

“Those kids’ deaths were such a horrible state of affairs that no one considered a mother would murder her own children,” Actkinson said. “So the doctors look for another way to explain it. I am not being crirtical. It’s just human nature.”

Maria Antillon, 31, a close friend of Ms. Lumbrera’s since grade school, said the defendant is high-strung, emotional and frequently talked about her fervent belief in spiritual healers and doomsayers known as “curanderos.”

Curanderos are fortune tellers or witchcraft doctors prevalent in Hispanic culture who have the power to bless or curse a person’s life.

“She told me several times about witchcraft and things she believed in like curses and things like that,” said Mrs. Antillon, a resident of Bovina. “She used to tell me that her mother-in-law had cursed her. She said if you believe in the curanderos they will get to you. If you don’t they won’t.”

Mrs. Antillon said she believes Ms. Lumbrera is innocent.

“Diana went to church every Sunday when she lived here,” she said. “Everybody liked her. She wasn’t the type of person that would get in trouble with a neighbor. I never heard that she had gotten into an argument with someone else. And she loved her kids.”

Lionel Garza, Ms. Lumbrera’s second husband and father of four of the dead children, said most of his adult life he believed his children died because God had called them home.

He said he has trouble with the chilling possibility they were murdered by their mother.

“I was shocked when I found out she was convicted of killing her boy,” said Garza, who has remarried and is now living near Pecos.

“All my life I lived thinking my kids died of natural causes. Now all the doors of question are open and the pain is rushing back in.”

“It is real scary to have somebody tell you that your daughters and son were killed and didn’t die of natural causes,” Garza said. “At first it gave me a lot of anger. But now I just want the truth. I want to know if she killed my babies.”

Garza, who filed for divorce from Ms. Lumbrera in 1980 two years after their third child’s death, declined to comment publicly about his suspicions, but authorities say his grand jury testimony was crevealing.

“Lionel was suspicious of Diana after the third death,” said Bovina Police Chief Gary Coleman. “Especially since he said he was playing with the child (Melissa Garza) early that morning before going to work.

“He said the child was healthy and he didn’t detect anything wrong. Thirty minutes after he arrives at work, he’s called and told the child has died.”

Garza, who works at the Reeves County law enforcement center in Pecos, said he and Mrs. Lumbrera’s divorce came through in 1982 after five years of marriage.

He said he fears testifying about the deaths of his children.

“I don’t know how I will react. I try to avoid remembering back then,” he said. “It only opens old wounds.”

Ms. Lumbrera has claimed that Garza’s mother placed a curse on her, damning all of her children to early death.

Virginia Bribiesca, Ms. Lumbrera’s sister, said she witnessed the curse’s pronouncement.

Garza’s mother told Ms. Lumbera her children would die at their mother’s hands, Ms. Bribiesca said. “I herard the woman say it.”

Garza denies that his mother ever placed a curse on Ms. Lumbrera.

“She never said anything to me about the children being cursed by my mother,” he said.

Permer County Deputy Sheriff Richard Bonham, who helped lead the investigation into the deaths of Ms. Lumbrera’s children in Texas, says the curse is a scapegoat.

“Some people that believe in curanderos and witchcraft will say it does have an affect,” Bonham said. “But in our investigation that holds no water for defense of what she has done.”

Family members adamantly defend Ms. Lumbrera, accusing authorities of racism and using her case for publicity.

“There is no reasoning for all this to come ourt so many years later except that the police want to put their name in the paper,” Ms. Flores said. “The medical records show the kids died of natural causes.”

Rober Olvera, 33, Ms. Lumbrera’s cousin, says the police have actively pursued the case because the defendant is Hispanic.

“You think this would happen to a Diana if she was white? No way. Absolutely not,” Olvera said.

Several of Ms. Lumbrera’s relatives who still live in Bovina say she suffered from ploio as a child and may have passed on severe illnesses to her babies.”

“Diana was often sick when she was young,” said Elva Hernandez, Ms. Lumbrera’s aunt. “How can they just disregard that the kids could have died because of sickness?”

In August, Ms. Lumbrera was indicted on three counts of capital murder by a Parmer County grand jury in the 1976 death of 3-month-old Joanna Graza; the 1978 death of 3-year-old Melissa Garza and the 1982 death of Melinda Ann Garza.

The grand jury said she smothered the three children to collect $15,000 in life insurance benefits. A trial of the charges is expected to begin next month.

If convicted of capital murder. Ms. Lumbrera would face life in prison or death by injection.

Ms. Lumbrrera was indicted on one count of murder by a Lubbock County grand jury on Dec. 6 in the 1978 death of Jose Lionel Garza Jr.

She was indicted on one count of murder by a Bailey County grand jury on Sept. 10 for the 1980 death of 6-week-old Erica Aleman, the daughter of Ms. Lumbrera’s cousin, Benito Aleman.

Garza fathered Joanna, Melissa, Melinda and Jose Lionel. Police believe Jose Luz Valvonis, who was never married to Ms. Lumbrera, fathered Christopher Daniel Lumbrera, who died at 5 ½ months of an apparent blood infection in Dimmitt, and Jose Antonio Lumbrera.

Gordon Green, who will represent Ms. Lumbrera in her upcoming trials in Parmer County, refused to allow her to be interviewed.

“It’s not an everyday case,” said Green, refusing to comment further.

Ms. Lumbrera had been held in the Parmer County Jail on $300,000 bond since the Kansas trial.

Authorities say the death of Ms. Lumbrera’sixth child, Jose Antonio Lumbrera in Garden City, triggered a massive investigation into the other children’s deaths, resulting in the five murder indictments in three West Texas counties.

Michael Quint, who defended Ms. Lumbrera in Garden City, said the jury in the Kansas trial was prejudiced by pre-trial publicity.

Green said he is still considering a motion to move the trial from Parmer County.

Ms. Bribiesca fears the Kansas conviction will doom her sister in Texas.

“She didn’t get a fair trial,” in Garden City, said Ms. Bribiesca, who resides in Kansas. “Before this, I think she could have gotten one in Texas, but not now. Not after this. They’re going to think she killed all her kids. But Diana’s not going to give up, I’ll tell you that.”

[Chip Brown (AP), “Mother says curse killed children,” The Lawrence Daily-World (Ks.), Dec. 16, 1990, p. 12A]


Arrest & Convictions:

May 5, 1990 – Arrested in Kansas for alleged murder of José Antonio Lumbrera.

Oct. 3, 1990 – KANSAS: Convicted for the death of José Antonio Lumbrera. Convicted of murder after less than an hour of deliberation, Diana was sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum of fifteen years before the possibility parole.

Apr. 23, 1991 – PALMER COUNTY, TEXAS: Found guilty of murder in the first degree for the deaths of Melissa, Melinda, and Daniel. Diana pled guilty to Melissa’s murder, while charges were dropped in the cases of Melinda and Joanna.

DATE??? – LUBBOCK COUNTY, TEXAS: Lubbock County was next in line, handing down a third life sentence after Diana pled no contest – with no technical admission of guilt – to her first son’s death.

DATE???? – CASTRO COUNTY, TEXAS: waived prosecution on outstanding charges to save an estimated $50,000 in court costs.

June 1991 – Kansas, officially beginning to serve her time.

Sep. 9, 2004 – Began serving time in the Mountain View Unit of a Texas prison.









For more cases of this type, see Serial Baby-Killer Moms.


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