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Official: Scalia died of heart attack

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 2/14/2016 Jason Whitely, WFAA
Photos: Justice Antonin Scalia remembered

MARFA, Texas — The 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.

Guevara was shopping Saturday in the neighboring town of Alpine when county Sheriff Danny Dominguez called her on her cellphone 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,'” Guevara recounted.

“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. Guevara said Dmoinguez called back repeatedly for 20 minutes, at the mercy of cell service.

Guevara said she pronounced Scalia 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.”

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. She said the physician told her that Scalia had a shoulder problem last week and underwent an MRI. Scalia also suffered several chronic ailments, Guevara said.

“I felt comfortable what I knew was going on with him physically,” she said.

On Saturday night, at his family’s request, Justice Scalia’s remains were moved from the ranch to El Paso, where a funeral home will embalm his body and prepare it to be flown to back to the East Coast.

Guevara said she will 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, 79, 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.

Antonin Scalia: FILE - In this Monday, Oct. 31, 2005 file photo, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia joins the members of the Supreme Court for photos during a group portrait session, at the Supreme Court Building in Washington. On Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, the U.S. Marshals Service confirmed that Scalia has died at the age of 79. © AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite FILE - In this Monday, Oct. 31, 2005 file photo, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia joins the members of the Supreme Court for photos during a group portrait session, at the Supreme Court Building in Washington. On Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, the U.S. Marshals Service confirmed that Scalia has died at the age of 79.
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