MARFA, Texas — The Texas death certificate for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia will list myocardial infarction — a heart attack — as the official cause of death, Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara told WFAA on Sunday.
She was shopping yesterday afternoon in the neighboring town of Alpine when Presidio County Sheriff Danny Dominguez called her on her mobile phone after lunch.
“He says, 'Judge, I’m at Cibolo Creek Ranch, and a Supreme Court justice has just passed away, and I need someone here immediately. Both justices of the peace are out of town at this time,'” Guevara recounted to WFAA.
“I said, 'Sheriff, what did you say? Which Supreme Court Justice died at Cibolo Creek Ranch?’ And the phone went dead, because our connection was very bad,” she explained.
Cell phone service is spotty in far West Texas. There’s no service at the ranch where Scalia passed away.
“He called me back and he gave me a few more sentences until it broke up again. And that’s how the conversation went for 20 minutes,” the county judge recalled.
Guevara said she immediately recognized Scalia’s name as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, and pronounced him dead over the phone at 1:52 p.m. on Saturday.
She planned to drive to the ranch — about 30 minutes south of Marfa — but returned when a U.S. Marshal told her by phone: “It’s not necessary for you to come, judge. If you’re asking for an autopsy, that’s what we need to clarify.”
Judge Guevara said she wanted to clarify details of Scalia’s death before deciding whether to order an autopsy.
“As part of my investigation, one of the things I did ask the sheriff and the U.S. Marshal: 'Were there any signs of foul play?' And they said, ‘Absolutely not.’ At that time I still wanted to be careful, and asked them if [Scalia’s] physician would call me.”
The justice’s personal doctor called her at 8 p.m. Saturday night
“When [the physician] explained [Scalia] had just visited on Wednesday and Thursday and [the doctor] had done an MRI, then I felt comfortable what I knew was going on with him physically,” Guevara said.
The judge said Scalia went to his doctor for a shoulder injury last week, but also suffered from several chronic ailments.
On Saturday night, at his family’s request, Justice Scalia’s remains were moved from the ranch to El Paso. Chris Lujan, a manager for Sunset Funeral Homes, said a procession that included about 20 law enforcement officers arrived early Sunday. The mortuary will embalm Scalia's body and prepare it to be flown to back to the East Coast. Lujan said tentative plans were for the transfer to Virginia to take place on Tuesday.
When the funeral home contacts Judge Guevara, she said she will then fill out the official death certificate to be permanently filed in Presidio County.
“After I did my job, yes, I kept playing it over and over in my mind and thought, ‘Oh my God. History is being made in Presidio County,” Guevara told WFAA. “It’s something I’ll never forget.”
Scalia was visiting the ranch with friends on a hunting trip. Guevara said she did not know he was here.
“I just feel that we have lost a great defender of the Constitution, and it’s a big loss for the United States of America,” she said.
Scalia was 79.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.