Jury selection resumes Tuesday morning in the second of three death penalty trials in connection with the May 30, 2009, home invasion in the community of Arivaca.
Last Wednesday, 225 prospective jurors were summoned to Pima County Superior Court to fill out questionnaires in regards to the trial of Washington state native Jason Eugene Bush. Based upon answers to those questionnaires attorneys agreed to dismiss 113 jurors from further service on this trial leaving 112 prospective jurors who will begin voir dire on Tuesday.
Jury selection is expected to take three days with opening statements anticipated the morning of March 18. Defense counsel Chris Kimminau told the court Friday afternoon that he will likely reserve his opening statement for the start of the defense case, which could start as early as March 30 or April 1. “We do not have a robust defense in this case since there was a confession,” said co-counsel Richard Parrish.
The confession by Bush was reported in a July 8, 2009, story in the Green Valley News. “It was quite a lengthy interview with him,” Pima County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Michael O’Connor said. “He admitted to both murders. He murdered a little girl. I think that was hard on him.”
Bush, 36, is charged with two counts of first-degree felony murder in the deaths of Raul “Junior” Flores and his daughter, Brisenia, 9, as well as one count of the attempted first-degree murder of Gina Marie Gonzalez; one count of burglary in the first-degree; one count of aggravated assault, serious physical injury; one count of aggravated assault, deadly weapon/dangerous instrument; one count of armed robbery; and one count of aggravated armed robbery.
Co-defendant Shawna Forde was recently convicted of all of these charges and was sentenced to death by a superior court jury.
During the Forde trial, Deputy County Attorney Kellie Johnson asked home invasion survivor Gina Gonzalez about her marriage and family. She said that she and her husband had been married for 13 years. Besides Brisenia, Gonzalez identified her other daughter as Alexandra, who is now 14 years-old.
On May 29, Gonzalez testified that the family had gone to Tucson to purchase groceries and other items. “Brisenia needed new shoes as she was starting summer school,” she testified.
When the family returned home they prepared to go to bed. Gonzalez and her husband were in their bedroom while Brisenia settled down on the couch in the living room because she wanted to sleep with her new puppy.
Shortly before 1 a.m. on May 30, Raul Flores awakened Gonzalez. “Raul was standing by the bed looking out the window,” she said.
Flores told his wife to get dressed and he went out to turn on lights before answering the door. “I sat on the couch next to Brisenia,” Gonzalez said. Brisenia was still asleep.
|Raul and Brisenia Flores|
When Flores opened the door, a female said they were looking for fugitive and needed to search their home. Flores said he needed to put on some pants before allowing them into his home. “She tells him to open the door or we’re going to shoot you,” Gonzalez testified.
Flores sat on a second couch when the female and a male entered their home. “He was tall. He was white. His face was painted black and his hair was really weird,” Gonzalez testified.
Just before Flores was shot to death the male gunman apologized. “Don’t take this personal,” Gonzalez testified. “But, this bullet has your name on it.”
When shots were fired Gonzalez jumped up attracting the attention of the gunman who fired at her. “I ducked down,” she said.
Gonzalez was struck in the right shoulder and in the upper portion of her right leg before falling to the floor in front of the couch where Brisenia was starting to wake up. “Junior yelled at him to stop shooting,” she said. That’s when the gunman resumed shooting at Flores killing him. “I hear Junior hit the couch saying no, no.” The next sounds she heard was gurgling which told her he was going to die.
A mother’s grief
Brisenia then asked why her father and mother had been shot. “He said everything will be okay,” Gonzalez testified. “She was really scared and her voice was shaking.”
At that point, the gunman calmly reloaded the clip for his handgun as Brisenia watched. “I could hear her telling him please don’t shoot me,” Gonzalez testified. “I saw her fly back on the couch after I heard the first shot.”
After the home invaders left, Gonzalez looked up from the floor to where her daughter was on the couch. “She was shaking,” she testified. “I was telling her not to die on me, but she was choking on her own blood.”
Testifying during the Forde trial was a onetime love interest of Bush, Melinda Shelton. She recently took back her maiden name of Williams following a divorce.
In the weeks leading up to the May 30, 2009, home invasion in Arivaca Bush and Williams had been living together in the community of Meadview near Kingman. They had met at work at the Grand Canyon Skywalk where Williams was a sales supervisor and Bush performed maintenance at the tourist attraction. Williams admitted under cross-examination that she had left her husband for Bush because she had fallen “head-over-heels” in love.
Under direct examination, Williams told Deputy County Attorney Rick Unklesbay that Bush talked often about prior military service. “He said he had been in the military, secret service,” she said.
Bush was terminated from his job at the Skywalk early in 2009 because he was sought by law enforcement on a probation violation. “He said he was re-enlisting,” she said. “I came home from work one night and he said he was leaving today. He said somebody was going to pick him up.” Forde picked Bush up the last week in May 2009.
Bush returned to Meadview, un-expectantly in the early morning hours of June 10, 2009. “I heard a knock on the door,” Williams testified. “He had a bullet hole in his leg.”
Also expected to testify during the trial for Bush is New Mexico resident Chuck Stonex who was contacted by Forde to provide medical attention to Bush the day after the home invasion. Stonex suggested they seek medical attention at a hospital, but Forde said that was not a practical option, as Bush didn’t have funds to cover the cost. “I knew him as Gunny,” Stonex testified.
Stonex cleaned the wound that he described as being an inch wide, and two inches long. “I compare it to a 10 year-old doing a crash and burn at home plate,” Stonex suggested.
While Stonex was cleaning the wound it was mentioned that Bush had his face camouflaged when he was wounded the night before. “You ought to see how scary he is with his face blacked out,” Stonex recalled Forde saying. The next day, Bush showed Stonex “his souvenir” a .40 caliber hollow-point bullet from his leg wound.
As an army veteran, Stonex was asked about his impressions of Bush’s military skills. “He was extremely convincing,” he said.
Stonex said he asked Bush about his Marine Corp nickname “Gunny” since he said he was an army veteran. “He said it sounded more prestigious,” Stonex testified.