Ben Trevino was living his dream. He was a prime-time anchorman, delivering the news to one million TV viewers in the Texas Rio Grande Valley. But a drug addiction made it all fall apart, and Trevino went from reading the headlines to making them.
"It was the pinnacle that I had been striving for … that's what you shoot for — to be the anchorman. And I had reached the top," said Trevino, who'd worked his way up from cameraman to the coveted anchor spot.
Then Trevino began using cocaine. For a while, he was able to live in two worlds — that of trusted broadcast journalist and another of a drug addict.
"I spent years trying to build the public trust in me, in my word, in my advice, in my information. People looked to me in times of crisis. And inside, I wasn't being that person at all. … It was the ultimate betrayal," Trevino said.
While he was reading the news, Trevino said, he'd sometimes have a bag of cocaine in his pocket.
Describing his cocaine use, Trevino said, "I would get a cheap hotel room, cheap motel room, maybe a $40, $50 a night place that reeked of drug use … reeked of sex. … I would spend all my money on the room and the cocaine and by the end of the night, it would be over with and I'd have nothing — literally nothing."
Irma Garza, who was Trevino's co-anchor at KGBT, describes how she felt a bit star-struck by the veteran newsman in her first week on the job. "I walk into the news room and I thought to myself, oh my God, that, that's Ben, that's Ben Trevino, you know, I used to watch him on TV," Garza said.
Garza said she and her colleagues all viewed Ben as a great reporter, as a man with integrity and credibility. "You know, if … Ben said it, it was the truth," Garza said.
Trevino's fame made him a glamorous fixture on the social scene: the best tables at restaurants, tickets to sporting events.
"It was intoxicating. … I was living the fast life, you know? This is not Hollywood down here by any means, but it was my version of Hollywood," Trevino said.
Early on, Trevino said, he felt the cocaine made him more self-confident. "I thought I was a better talker, a better thinker," he said.
Façade Begins to Crumble
But as the years passed, the façade began to crumble. The trusted public figure was "freebasing" every night … melting cocaine into crack and smoking it. His moods became totally unpredictable.
Garza said Trevino fell apart just before airtime one evening. "He just went crazy," she said.
Trevino said he and Garza began to argue. They traded profanities. Garza said she thought he might hit her. "Luckily," she said, "he held himself back."
Garza said she had begun to suspect that Trevino was using drugs.
"He always had an angry look on his face. It was very rare to see Ben smile … It was like he was in his own little world and he wanted it that way," she said.
Trevino said, when his drug habit reached its peak. He was getting high everyday — either in the morning before work, or afterward.
Although Ben, his wife Kay, and daughter Alexa, appeared to be a happy family, underneath, there were problems in the marriage, and the cocaine, of course, made it tougher.
Alexa recalls, "We would be laughing and stuff and … all of a sudden he would be really mad. Out of nowhere."
At the anchor desk, Trevino's anger was beginning to destroy the broadcast.
Garza said Trevino would mumble obscenities while she was reading the news — during the broadcast.