On February 13, 2014, news came that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, 79, had died in his sleep “of natural causes” at the 5-star resort Cibolo Creek Ranch in remote West Texas.

John Poindexter (photo by Matthew Busch/Getty Images)
John Poindexter (photo by Matthew Busch/Getty Images)

Scalia was part of a private group of 36 people in a long Valentine’s-Presidents’ Day weekend blue quail hunting vacation, courtesy of ranch owner John B. Poindexter, a Houston billionaire and Democrat donor.

Scalia arrived at the resort around noon on Friday, Feb. 12, and was vital and in good spirits at dinner that evening. When he didn’t appear for breakfast Saturday, resort owner John Poindexter went to his room to check on him and found him dead, “with a pillow over his head.”

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After his “pillow” remark fueled speculations of foul play, Poindexter later walked back on his remark, insisting that he had meant the pillow was above Scalia’s head, not over his face.

Scalia’s death came at a decidedly inopportune time for conservatives because he left a Supreme Court now equally divided 4-4 between conservatives and liberals, at a time when the Court is set to rule on many important, but controversial, cases, including abortion, affirmative action, climate change, gun rights, illegal immigration, Obamacare, separation of church and state, and unions.


1. It is not uncommon for people to sleep with a pillow or pillows above one’s head. As an example, I sleep on a pillow and with 3 pillows behind and above my head. So, even assuming Poindexter’s clarification is true — that he saw a pillow above, not over, Scalia’s head — why would Poindexter make a special note of that to mySA (My San Antonio)?

2. Why did Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara, who is not a medical professional, pronounce Scalia had died of natural causes without a physician or medical examiner examining the body? How on earth did Guevara know? (Guevara said “law enforcement” officers at the scene, who are also not medical professionals, told her there was no foul play.)

Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara
Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara

3. Why was there no autopsy of the body of a Supreme Court justice who died hundreds of miles away from home? Detectives say it is standard operating procedure to treat such deaths as homicides, until proven otherwise.

4. When exactly did Scalia die? On the night of February 12 or in the early morning of February 13? (We’ll never know the answer to that question because there was no autopsy.)

5. Why was Scalia’s body so quickly embalmed, less than 24 hours after it had been found?

The next questions stem from the investigative reporting conducted by independent investigative journalist Wayne Madsen, who is in West Texas looking into Scalia’s death. (Madsen’s first report from West Texas is “Forget the eulogies of Scalia; Why was he on a free tip to a swanky resort?,” Feb. 19, 2016; his second report is “No country for old Supreme Court justices,” Feb. 21, 2016. Both reports are for subscribers only.)

6. Was Scalia’s freebie private charter plane to and stay at Poindexter’s ranch a case of payback and conflict of interest? Scalia had found in favor of Poindexter in an age discrimination case (Hinga, James V. Mic Group) against Poindexter’s company before the Supreme Court last year. Although Poindexter was adamant that he did not pay for Scalia’s air travel to the Cibolo Creek airport on a private executive jet, Madsen says other reports indicated that Scalia’s air travel was provided gratis by Poindexter. Madsen points out that:

Unlike elected politicians who are bought-and-paid-for by special interests, judges, especially life-serving Supreme Court justices, not only interpret existing law but often make decisions that become rooted in case law. And those decisions can affect every man, woman, and child in the United States.

At the very least, Scalia’s apparent conflict-of-interest in accepting a free trip from a Supreme Court litigant demands a federal law enforcement investigation. Perhaps it was Scalia’s possible violation of ethics and the law that created the kerfuffle surrounding the lid being placed on details concerning his sudden death.

This is the description of Cibolo Creek Ranch on its website:

Nestled peacefully in the Chinati Mountains, a true West Texas experience awaits at Cíbolo Creek Ranch. Established in 1857, our Big Bend property is equal parts resort lodging and remote getaway. It may be only a short drive from the nearby cities of Marfa, Alpine, Marathon and more, but we think you’ll agree – it feels worlds away. Whether you’re visiting with your family, sweetheart, wedding party or hunting friends, choose from many exciting on-site opportunities for adventure, spread across 30,000 pristine acres of land. Ride a horse, ATV, Humvee – or simply strike out on foot – to admire the local wildlife, marvel at Native American rock art, brave our ghost town ruins, go on a hunt and even catch a glimpse of Mexico in the distance. In the evening, flavorful Texan cuisine , smooth beverages and a myriad of stars will be your constant companions. Spend the night in one of our three centuries-old Adobe forts . Each has been meticulously restored and provides luxurious accommodations  in authentic ranch style. 

Room rates at the ranch for January 2016 ranged from $535 to $565 per night for two people.

Cibola Creek Ranch

7. Who was Scalia’s “friend” who accompanied him from Washington?

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8. Who were the other 34 fully comped guests in Scalia’s group? Why are their identities a closely-guarded secret?

9. Why is every major “player” in Scalia’s death a Democrat? — ranch owner John Poindexter; county judge Cinderela Guevara; and Presidio County Sheriff Danny Dominguez, who is described by his challenger in the upcoming Democratic primary election, former deputy sheriff Caesar Melendez, as incompetent and owned-and-operated by special interests in the county.

Presidio County Sheriff Danny Dominguez
Presidio County Sheriff Danny Dominguez

10. Why did Dominguez, et al., violate Texas law and county procedures in Scalia’s death? Melendez said Sheriff Dominguez had violated all standard Presidio County procedures in the death of Scalia: Scalia’s room was not quarantined as a potential crime scene nor was an in-person inquest conducted. Melendez said even dead Mexican migrants found in the desert received better treatment than Scalia. One such death last year not only involved an autopsy but the area where the migrant’s body was found was secured as a potential crime scene. Melendez said that sudden or unattended deaths like that of Scalia are always treated as homicides until deemed otherwise from collected evidence, including, at a minimum, an eyes-on inquest. Although Scalia’s family requested that no autopsy be performed, Texas law requires a legitimate medical inquest, which was not conducted in Scalia’s case.

11. Why was Scalia’s body taken to a funeral home 3½-hours’ drive away in El Paso, when there are two funeral homes much closer to the ranch? They are:

  • A funeral home in Marfa which can embalm bodies, only a half-hour drive from Cibolo Creek Ranch, according to former deputy sheriff Melendez.
  • Alpine Funeral Home in Alpine, Texas, a one-hour drive from the ranch.

map of Cibolo Creek Ranch and El Paso, Texas, where Scalia was embalmed

As Wayne Madsen writes:

Scalia’s body was inexplicably transported to El Paso in an Alpine Funeral Home hearse. El Paso is a three-and-a-half hour drive from the Cibolo Creek resort. Scalia was embalmed at El Paso’s Sunset Funeral Home and flown out of El Paso International Airport on a private plane to Washington, DC. The funeral director who embalmed Scalia said it is standard procedure to flush bodily fluids, including blood and urine, into the municipal sewage system. Sheriff candidate Melendez said that is not the normal procedure in Presidio County where Scalia diedbecause with a high water table there is always the potential for contamination from sewage system leeching potentially dangerous fluids into the fresh water supply. Arid desert counties like Presidio take clean water seriously. Someone obviously wanted Scalia moved out of Presidio County to El Paso where there would be no trace of blood or other bodily fluids that could have later yielded clues as to what drugs were in his system when he died.

12. If Scalia had been in poor health, why did his physician permit him to travel to a remote ranch where guests are required to sign a liability waiver because of the lack of nearby medical facilities? County Judge Guevara, who declared Scalia dead of natural causes over the telephone, without having viewed the body, said she had spoken toScalia’s physician in Washington, Rear Admiral Brian Monahan, who claimed Scalia was in poor health. As Madsen writes:

That was a surprise to those who were with Scalia before and during his trip to the West Texas ranch. They claimed Scalia appeared healthy at the ranch and before he left. Scalia was also fit enough to travel to Hong Kong and Singapore on a business trip two weeks before his stay at the Cibolo Creek Ranch.

Regular guests at Cibolo Creek Ranch are required to sign a medical waiver whereby they agree not to hold the ranch owner liable if they become sick or are injured. The reason cited is the lack of nearby medical facilities. Monahan’s agreeing to allow Scalia to travel to such a locale appears odd if, in fact, Scalia was as ill as was later claimed by Monahan.

13. Given all the above, why did Scalia’s family insist there be no autopsy on his body and demonize legitimate questions as “conspiracy theories”? Are they not interested in the truth of how and why their beloved husband, father, and grandfather died?

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Dr. Eowyn’s post first appeared at Fellowship of the Minds.