Scholarship Honors Murder Victims

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It was a pair of crimes that still horrifies the community 13 years later. Local teacher Kathy Powell found dead, her body thrown in a dumpster. Immigrant hotel worker Thelma Davila missing from her Sparks home. Her remains found months later near Verdi.

Police had reason to suspect former Miami cop David Middleton, but it was a call to Secret Witness that broke the case.

Middleton was tried and convicted. Today, he's on Nevada's death row. Secret Witness and the Washoe County Teachers Association both had offered rewards. The caller didn't want the money. He wanted it put to good use. It was decided to set up a scholarship honoring both victims. Each year since then, a local student has received a thousand dollar scholarship. Their stories reflect the lives of both victims, Hispanic, hard working, often an immigrant, with a goal of becoming a teacher.

Seventeen year old Marco Real fits the description. The Reno High senior arrived in the U.S. less than 3 years ago speaking little English.

"I didn't understand what the teacher or anyone was saying," says Real. "I just sat there not knowing what to do."

A good student back home in Jalisco, Mexico, Real struggled his first year, seeking help from teacher Danitza Chapple. Marco has never taken a class from Chapple, but the 2 were a match. She was bilingual and she knew what he faced, having come to the US as a young girl from Italy knowing no English.

Marco, she says, was eager to learn. "I'd work with him most nights,” she says. "He'd come to me asking how to say something in English. It was above and beyond what was required for class. He gave it extra effort almost every day."

In a year his grades were back up. He's finishing on the Honor Roll, an achievement for any student. Along the way he decided he wants to be a teacher.

Next fall Marco will enter UNR. Eventually he wants to teach others Spanish and Hispanic culture. He says when you understand a language and a culture, you understand the people. It's a lesson he's learned. He wants to share with others.

"He's a deserving young man," says Chappel. "I think he's going to succeed."