DALLAS — A Dallas homicide detective is under criminal investigation over allegations that he perjured himself and tampered with records during the capital murder investigation against a fellow police officer.
The Dallas Police Department has referred two felony counts of tampering with government records and one felony count of perjury to the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office involving Detective Esteban Montenegro.
Montenegro is on administrative leave, pending the outcome of the investigation into his handling of the March 2021 arrest of former Dallas Police Officer Bryan Riser.
WFAA has also confirmed that District Attorney John Creuzot has recused his office, and the Kaufman County District Attorney’s Office has taken over.
Kaufman County District Attorney Erleigh Wiley told WFAA that her office was appointed as special prosecutors on the case and “recently received the case from Dallas County.”
“We just started reviewing the documents,” Wiley said.
She described the records as “voluminous.”
“There are more documents to be received from Dallas County,” she said. “We will not be making a filing decision until we completely review the Dallas DA’s Office file.”
Messina Madson, an attorney representing Montenegro, said her client has complete faith that the justice system will clear him.
“He was acting in good faith at all times,” she said.
A judge found there was no evidence to hold Riser and ordered his released last April at the conclusion of an extraordinary three-hour hearing, in which Montenegro came under intense questioning from both the defense and prosecution.
During the hearing, Montenegro adamantly argued that he believed there was sufficient probable cause for the arrest. The prosecutor disagreed, saying he did not believe that police had enough probable cause.
Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia announced Riser’s arrest on March 4, 2021. The chief said investigators developed evidence that the 12-year veteran paid to have two people killed in 2017. He fired Riser a few days later.
Arrest warrants for Riser’s arrest show police based much of their case on the word of Emmanuel Kilpatrick, a convicted killer.
Kilpatrick had been in jail for about two years when he came forward in August 2019, claiming that Riser had hired him to kill Lisa Saenz and Albert Douglas.
However, issues with Montenegro’s handling of the case quickly became apparent.
The original warrants, signed by a judge, said a preliminary analysis from the FBI "revealed that the suspect's cellphone placed him in or about the area during the time frame" of both victims' disappearances and subsequent killings.
However, after Riser’s arrest, Montenegro returned to the judge and that information had been taken out because it was not true. Cellphone data did not place Riser’s phone at the time of the killings.
Montenegro testified during the hearing he made a mistake, which he attributed to a “cut and paste error.”
Riser is appealing his termination and continues to maintain his innocence, his attorney Toby Shook said.