High-profile Valley attorney dies

McALLEN — A prominent criminal defense attorney who defended drug cartel leaders and high-ranking officials died Thursday.

Robert J. “Bobby Joe” Yzaguirre, 77, suffered a heart attack Monday and never came to, his colleague Cris “CJ” Quintanilla said Friday.

“There’s never going to be another guy like this,” Quintanilla said. “This guy was a legend.”

Yzaguirre spent 47 years practicing law around the country in dozens of high-profile cases.

“He had a bunch of infamous, unsavory characters as clients,” Quintanilla said. “If you had a problem, a serious problem, this guy was good at finding a solution. He was a consummate problem solver, and that’s why everybody went to him. All lawyers wished they had his clientele.”

His clients included former Gulf Cartel leader Osiel Cárdenas Guillén, Guillén’s predecessor, Juan García Ábrego, and Guillermo Calderoni, a high-ranking Mexican federal officer who was shot and killed as he left Yzaguirre’s McAllen office in 2003.

Quintanilla, who partnered with Yzaguirre in the Guillén case, spoke highly of the late attorney’s work ethic.

“He worked till the very last day,” he said. “On Sunday we were talking business on the phone.”

Mission Mayor Beto Salinas, who grew up with Yzaguirre, also spoke highly of Yzaguirre.

“He was one of the best attorneys,” Salinas said. “He represented a lot of people. It’s going to be hard to find another attorney like him.”

Yzaguirre’s clientele also included elected officials who took bribes and laundered money, including former Hidalgo County sheriffs Brig Marmolejo and Lupe Treviño.

“He represented just about every sheriff that got in trouble,” Quintanilla said. “These people when they were in trouble they’d always go to Bobby Joe and he’d always answer his phone.”

Those closest to him, including his law partner Joe Chapa, described him not only as a man that could do his job with his eyes closed, but as a man who cared for his community.

“Just as he had these characters that he represented, you’d also find him having dinner with the local priest, Father Amador Garza,” Quintanilla said. “This man was unique. He helped so many people out.”

Yzaguirre grew up in Rio Grande City, where his family can trace its roots to the Spanish land grants. He owned a lot of ranchland in Starr County and was an avid hunter and a pilot, Salinas said.

“That’s where I believe he got a lot of his character — from the ranch,” Quintanilla said.

Yzaguirre’s law partner was heartbroken Friday.

“I lost my partner yesterday,” Chapa said. “It made for a sad holiday, believe me.”

Chapa described Yzaguirre as a good provider, husband and father.

“Bobby was a good human being,” he said. “As a lawyer, he was top notch. He served his clientele with excellence and held nothing back.”