‘We’re still in shock’: Conjunto community honors beloved member who police say was murdered by a neighbor

58-year-old Richard Amesquita’s body was found inside his burning home February 27. Police say video captured a neighbor beating him to death.

SAN ANTONIO — A man who police say was brutally attacked and killed by a neighbor late last month is being remembered for his love of conjunto.

Baltazar Castaneda is facing murder and arson charges after investigators say he was caught on surveillance video beating his neighbor, 58-year-old Richard Amesquita to death. Police say he then dragged Amesquita into his home and set it on fire.

Authorities haven’t released a motive.

KENS 5 met friends of Amesquita Wednesday afternoon at Lerma’s Nite Club on the west side. The historic building is four minutes from Amesquita’s home off NW 20th Street, and the spot where he took music lessons for the bajo sexto.

Friends say wherever conjunto was playing, Amesquita would be there. He’d dance to the music and get to know those who played it — including his music teacher, Bene Medina.

“We couldn’t believe it, what happened,” said Medina. “We’re still in shock.”

Through the non-profit Conjunto Heritage Taller, Medina teaches curious minds of all ages how to preserve and pass along the music of conjunto.

“I teach accordion, bajo sexto, guitar, the bass,” said Medina, who’s taught with the non-profit for 20 years, and played professionally since the age of 16.

Inside Lerma’s, Medina spent what would be his final moments with Amesquita. 

“Everybody’s real sad,” said Medina. “He was a real nice man.”

Medina says at nearly every concert he played at the Royal Palace Ballroom, he would see his dedicated student in the crowd.

“I used to play over there in the afternoons. He used to go almost every time,” Medina recalled. “He was one of those people where everybody liked him.”

February 27, Amesquita’s body was found inside his burning home off NW 20th street near Leal.

Initially, investigators believed a lit cigarette caused the fire. But family pushed back on those claims. Days later, the Bexar County Medical Examiner revealed Amesquita showed no signs of smoke inhalation.

He instead died of blunt force trauma.

Susana Segura with the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center has known Amesquita for years.

“He was always very well dressed. He always had a nice little button-up shirt and a little conjunto hat, what we call the tanditos,” said Segura.

Segura first met Amesquita when she owned Centeno’s at Pan Am Plaza. They would have live conjunto performances there. 

“He would co-mingle with everybody, sometimes dance,” Segura recalled. “I think people including Richard Amesquita were just very proud of their heritage and their culture and our background as a working class people. Conjunto music is a working class that’s very connected to the community.”

When she moved to the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, she would run into Amesquita annually at their Mercado de Paz. He would be near the music, and if he saw Segura, he’d always offer words of kindness.

“He would always take that time to stop me and say, ‘Hey, good job on Lerma’s! Congratulations, y’all are doing a great job’,” said Segura. “I didn’t realize that he had daughters. Then it all made sense. No wonder he always said something nice to me. He was a girl dad. He was proud.”

Conjunto Radio Personality and musician, Mark Weber, remembers Amesquita as a genuine, kind-hearted person.

“We would hang around and drink some cervecitas together,” said Weber, who also DJ’s for Radio Jalapeño. “I saw him at a dance about a month ago.”

Weber is cherishing the decade-long friendship that formed with Amesquita through the power of music.

“He would show up with a big smile on his face, loved the music,” Weber added. “He was there for a good time. If there wasn’t a good time, he would cause a good time.”

A cross with flowers sits on Amesquita’s fence to his home, joined by a beige rosary. While a charred frame is mostly what’s left of the structure, you can see Amesquita’s guitar in the front room sitting upright in the corner.

Medina says in his next show, he is planning a moment of silence for his late student.

Segura wants to also see how friends can help honor Amesquita’s life in the most meaningful way.

“It’s a very hard time right now because it’s very fresh, I think it’s very emotional for a lot of us,” she added. “He had a huge community of friends and a big network of people he was connected to. I want to figure out a way to honor him in the best way possible. In a way that will lift this veil of anger, sadness and depression that’s come from this violent attack.”

As of Wednesday night, Castaneda remains in the Bexar County Jail with bonds totaling $400,000.

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