Slay­ing at North Austin’s Bud­get Lodge is the lat­est in a string of crim­i­nal in­ci­dents at ho­tel ad­ja­cent to In­ter­state 35, of­fi­cials say

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Clau­dia Grisales

A 44-year-old man has been charged in the stab­bing death of a guest at a North Austin ho­tel that has faced years of con­tro­versy over crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity there.

Po­lice on Thurs­day charged Car­los A. Mares with murder. Mares is ac­cused of stab­bing 57-year-old Otto Wi­ley in the chest sev­eral times Wed­nes­day at the Bud­get Lodge near In­ter­state 35 and Rund­berg Lane, ac­cord­ing to an ar­rest af­fi­davit filed Thurs­day.

Po­lice said Mares stabbed Wi­ley af­ter an ar­gu­ment in Wi­ley’s room on the third floor of the ho­tel, at 9220 N. In­ter­state 35. The two had been drink­ing ear­lier in the day, and sur­veil­lance video shows the two at a nearby Chevron gas sta­tion that morn­ing, the af­fi­davit said.

At 1:53 p.m. Wed­nes­day, a Bud­get Lodge clerk called po­lice to alert them of a guest who re­ported be­ing stabbed sev­eral times, the af­fi­davit said.

When po­lice ar­rived at the ho­tel, Wi­ley had sev­eral stab wounds to the up­per por­tion of his body, the af­fi­davit said. He was taken to Uni­ver­sity Med­i­cal Cen­ter Brack­en­ridge, where he was pro­nounced dead.

Po­lice in­ter­viewed Mares’ relatives, who said he called his son on Wed­nes­day shortly be­fore 6 p.m. and said he had stabbed some­one af­ter a dis­agree­ment, the doc­u­ment said.

“His fa­ther told him that he was hid­ing and was scared be­cause he had got­ten into a fight with a dude

af­ter they had been drink­ing,” the af­fi­davit said. “Car­los Sr. stated that he had picked up a knife and stabbed the man on the chest.”

Be­cause of the slay­ing, city and po­lice of­fi­cials are giv­ing Bud­get Lodge, which faced a fed­eral law­suit ini­ti­ated by the city two years ago, a closer look.

City of­fi­cials said Thurs­day that while the ho­tel has been in com­pli­ance with code re­quire­ments in re­cent months, it wasn’t clear whether the events sur­round­ing the stab­bing vi­o­lated a 2009 agree­ment to keep the busi­ness open.

Larry M. Hall, 66, the long­time Bud­get Lodge owner, said he hadn’t had any com­plaints from the city since the agree­ment was reached.

“I was hor­ri­fied” at the news of the stab­bing death, Hall said by phone from his San Diego-area of­fice. “I am not aware of the ar­rest of a sin­gle guest on the prop­erty in the last 12 months.”

Hall said that since the city ini­ti­ated lit­i­ga­tion against the ho­tel in 2008, he has in­stalled a strict guest pol­icy that does not al­low any­one to stay or visit un­less their ID is copied and they are not on the “do not rent” list. Hall said Mares did not reg­is­ter his ID when he vis­ited as Wi­ley’s guest.

In re­sponse to high crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity at the ho­tel, city and Travis County of­fi­cials filed a fed­eral law­suit against Bud­get Lodge and Hall in 2008 un­der state nui­sance abate­ment laws. In the suit, of­fi­cials said there were dozens of po­lice re­ports on drug ac­tiv­ity, pros­ti­tu­tion, ag­gra­vated rob­bery with a deadly weapon and other crimes from 2007 to 2008.

Un­der a July 2009 court or­der, the prop­erty could be closed for one year if any of 20 stip­u­la­tions un­der the agree­ment were “know­ingly vi­o­lated.” Among the re­quire­ments: the ho­tel had to hire off-duty po­lice of­fi­cers to pro­vide night­time se­cu­rity, not rent rooms by the hour and keep a “do not rent” list.

“We are still in the process of eval­u­at­ing the cir­cum­stances, in­clud­ing com­pli­ance with any nui­sance abate­ment agree­ment that we had,” said Reyne Telles, a City of Austin spokesman. “We will be re­view­ing in­for­ma­tion as we get it and, out­side of that, we have made no de­ter­mi­na­tions.”

In 2008, po­lice records show close to 300 calls of ser­vice to the mo­tel. (Hall dis­putes this fig­ure, say­ing it in­cludes an area that goes be­yond his ho­tel). In 2009, that fig­ure fell to about 110 calls. This year, po­lice have re­ceived about 50 calls for ser­vice, in­clud­ing the murder case, the fig­ures show.

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