|Albert Robert Gaxiola|
Jury selection for the death penalty trial of Albert Robert Gaxiola, which started with a jury questionnaire on May 25, is scheduled to resume on Wednesday, June 1, before Judge John S. Leonardo in Pima County Superior Court.
Thursday, Presiding Judge Sarah R. Simmons denied a defense motion requesting that Leonardo be removed as the judge presiding over the case and that the case be assigned to another member of the bench.
As reported during the trial for convicted double-murderer Shawna Forde, the early morning shooting deaths of Raul “Junior” Flores and his daughter, Brisenia, 9, on May 30, 2009, were a breach of the so-called “Arivaca Rules.”
Those rules, according to longtime Arivaca resident and drug dealer Oin Glenn Oakstar, were that the killing of a rival drug dealer was “business,” but that the rival drug dealer’s wife and children were off-limits. “Women and children are not part of it,” Oakstar testified. “There’s no reason to bring them into it.”
Oakstar testified during the Forde trial that he had met Gaxiola, Forde’s co-defendant and his partner in the drug business, in 2008 shortly after Gaxiola had been released from prison and that they had gone into business together. “We were moving marijuana ourselves,” he testified. He is expected to testify during the trial for Gaxiola.
Gaxiola, 43, faces two counts of first-degree murder in the May 30, 2009 deaths of Raul “Junior” Flores and his daughter, Brisenia, 9, at their home in Arivaca. Additional charges include: 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.
Both Forde and co-defendant Jason Eugene Bush have been tried and convicted on the same charges. Forde received two death sentences plus 65 years in the Arizona Department of Corrections and Bush received two death sentences and 78 years in prison.
Oakstar said Gaxiola considered Flores to be a rival in the drug business and they had started talking about eliminating him as competition in late 2008 and early 2009. “We thought we could hit him economically by taking his marijuana,” Oakstar testified during the Forde trial.
|Raul and Brisenia|
But, they soon began to consider other alternatives. “Once we had gone that far either he was going to kill us or we were going to kill him,” Oakstar testified. “Albert thought we should kill him. We discussed having it done by somebody else. We also discussed doing it ourselves.”
There was no discussion of harming the remainder the of the Flores family. “There was no reason to involve his family,” Oakstar testified. “This was business.”
Under cross-examination during the Forde trial, Gonzalez denied that her husband was making money by selling marijuana. She also denied there were packaging materials for marijuana in her home. Arivaca resident Inga Hartman was asked during the Forde trial if she was aware that Raul Flores was a drug dealer. “Yes,” was her answer. She was asked if Gina had told her that Raul was a drug dealer. “No,” she testified.
During the Forde trial Colorado resident and FBI informant Ron Wedow testified that Forde wanted to put together a team to take down the Flores home. “She told me she had met a cartel guy at a bar,” he testified. “She took a cigarette out of his mouth and stomped it on the floor. After that he was impressed with her.”
Wedow said Forde had reached an agreement with the cartel guy (Gaxiola) to tell her about illegals coming in if she would ignore his drug activities. This made Wedow suspicious. “I thought I was being set up,” he said.
Oakstar testified that Gaxiola had met Forde in May 2009. “He suggested inviting her down to help us with our problem,” refer8ng to drug competition from Flores.
There was a planning meeting at Gaxiola’s home prior to the home invasion at the Flores home. “There was discussion about taking out Junior,” Oakstar testified during the Forde trial. Oakstar said.
Forde made it clear that she wanted to steal drugs as a mechanism for funding her border watch group. “Everybody pretty much knew that he didn’t keep drugs on the property,” he testified.
Oakstar said that meeting at Gaxiola’s home was the first time he met Jason Bush. “I had been told he had been a sniper in the military or a military group,” he said. It was at this meeting that Oakstar was asked to take them by the Flores home to get an idea of location and other logistical issues regarding a plan to kill Flores using a sniper.
Oakstar was supposed to be part of the crew that did the home invasion, but he told Gaxiola that he was too drunk and high when Gaxiola came by to pick him up the night of May 29. Instead Oakstar said he spent the night with his girlfriend Sandy Somers-Stroup. Early on the morning of May 30, he received a call with the news of the Flores home invasion. “Automatically, I assumed it was Shawna and Jason,” he said.
The next call was from Gaxiola who asked Oakstar to take painkillers and antibiotics to his house because Bush had been wounded the night before. Oakstar delayed going to Bush’s aid until he received another call, this time from Forde who he asked about the home invasion. “She said things just got all fucked up,” he said. “They had to go back to get a gun that Albert dropped and they had gotten into a firefight with his wife.”
|Oin Oakstar arrested May 30|
When Oakstar got to Gaxiola’s home, Bush was alone in the bedroom, but he was reluctant to go in. “A voice in the back of my head said it was dangerous,” he testified. “I didn’t know if I was going to walk out of there alive.” He testified that Bush had a hand under the blanket where he assumed was a gun.
During the Forde trial, Gonzalez had testified that two additional males entered the home speaking Spanish. She identified the voice of one of those men as co-defendant Albert Gaxiola. She could not identify the other man. There was no mention of Gaxiola during her testimony at the Bush trial.
As for the relationship between her husband and Gaxiola, Gonzalez testified during the Forde trial that they had clashed over Gaxiola storing marijuana on their property. She also testified that she had seen a teal colored Astro van driving slowly by her home earlier in the day with a male driver and a female passenger. That van was later located at Gaxiola’s house along with blood in the van and outside of Gaxiola’s home that matched the blood found at the Flores home. That blood was matched to Jason Bush.
Jury selection in the trials for both Forde and Bush took three days once it reached the courtroom. Presumably, the same model will hold for this trial. That means opening statements could be heard on Tuesday, June 7.