Kidnapping suspect shoots self, officer freed

August 20, 2009 2:32:20 PM PDT
A SWAT standoff at a home in Brookshire ended Wednesday night with the death of a kidnapping suspect and the release of the woman he had reportedly abducted a day earlier. [PHOTOS: See images from Wednesday's dramatic standoff]

Around 7pm Wednesday, Katy ISD Officer Julio 'Trey' Reyes, 34, reportedly released the woman he had abducted, fellow Katy ISD officer Rachel Hillsman, 24. As SWAT team members were removing Hillsman, they heard a single gunshot. Once they entered the home, they found Reyes dead.

The standoff had begun a little more than six hours earlier after an intense manhunt that lasted more than a day.

We're told Rachel Hillsman came out of the house where she had been held hostage crying. She and a U.S. Marshal then ran for cover.

From the timeline we've been able to piece together, it appears Julio "Trey" Reyes plotted this kidnapping and scouted out a location to hold her. But we'll never really know since the veteran police officer committed suicide.

After being held hostage for a day and a half, Hillsman rode away in the back of an ambulance. She was tired, uninjured, and most importantly, alive.

"Those prayers were heard. It worked out," said Hillsman's cousin, Jack Tullos.

Upon hearing the good news, Hillsman's family members left the Brookshire Police Department where they had spent a nervous day.

"We're happy," said Hillsman's aunt.

Investigators have confirmed this timeline:

  • Couple argued Monday night
  • Reyes withdrew $500 cash that night
  • Went to a Katy Wal-Mart early Tuesday morning to buy black bed sheets, hooks and clothesline
  • Kidnapped Hillsman Tuesday morning
  • Reyes texted roommate asking him to make sure his son got all his belongings

"It's been an emotional roller coaster. We are happy on one side, unfortunately, it's a bad day on the other side," said Waller County Constable Joe Trimm.

Authorities found empty bottles of alcohol and two handguns along with Reyes' body in the house. The items he purchased from Wal-Mart were used to cover the windows.

We're told Reyes did let Hillsman talk to her parents and other family members throughout the day. Waller County Sheriff's Office said Hillsman is in good spirits despite what she's been through.

Wednesday's standoff

Around 1pm Wednesday, authorities were conducting a house-to-house search of vacant homes under construction on the same Brookshire street where Hillsman lives. A DPS SWAT officer noticed a broken window in one of the homes. As they approached the house, officers spotted Reyes, who fired at least one shot at the officers. He then grabbed Hillsman to use her as a shield.

Waller County Constable Joe Trimm said, "They entered the house at the rear entry and at that time the suspect appeared and did fire some warning shots. SWAT backed off, held their position and they've been negotiating with him for the past four hours."

DPS negotiators began negotiating with Reyes to secure Hillsman's release, and as negotiations continued into the early evening, they hoped for a peaceful resolution.

The street was sealed off by DPS SWAT, Waller and Harris County deputies. The Houston Police Department, Texas Rangers, Harris County Precinct 5 Constable's Office, Katy ISD Police, Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force, Royal ISD Police, Montgomery County Hostage Unit, Austin County Sheriff's Office, Brookshire Police all assisted on the scene. Numerous law enforcement helicopters also circled overhead. Residents in close proximity to the house were evacuated for their safety.

Hillsman and Reyes, who have a child together, had not been seen since 6am Tuesday morning as Hillsman left for work. Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith says Hillman and Reyes fought Monday night and Hillsman, along with her two children, came to stay with stay with her mother at a property in Waller County.

Reyes was reportedly waiting for her as she left for work the next day, her two children in tow as witnesses.

"There was a struggle based on the child witnesses," said Sheriff Smith. "There has been a small amount of blood found."

Officials say the couple had been broken up for months, though they still communicated because they have the baby girl together.

Brookshire is about 37 miles west of Houston.

According to DPS, when Hillsman was kidnapped, authorities issue a Blue Alert, which is similar to an Amber Alert. It was the first ever Blue Alert and it was issued on the first anniversary of Governor Rick Perry signing the executive order that created the Blue Alert.

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