Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Alleged drug kingpin denies knowledge of murder plans

Albert Gaxiola
(pool photo by Benjie
Sanders/Arizona Daily
The reputed leader of drug smuggling in Arivaca denied, Tuesday, any knowledge in Pima County Superior Court of the planned home invasion on May 30, 2009. In fact, Edward Anson “Eddie” Valdez testified that Brisenia Flores and her sister were invited to attend a birthday party for his daughter that day. 

Gaxiola, 43, faces two counts of first-degree murder in the May 30, 2009 deaths of Raul “Junior” Flores and his daughter, Brisenia, 9. 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.

Criminal record

Valdez, 35, testified that he lives on a ranch near Arivaca Lake with his mother, brother, girlfriend and children. Valdez is currently on probation from U.S. District Court at Tucson for a conviction on the charge of possession for sale or conspiracy to possess for sale a quantity of marijuana. Valdez said he is required to stay out of trouble, maintain employment and submit to urinalysis. “I take a piss test,” he said.

As far as unscheduled visits by his federal probation officer, there have never been any. “She tried to come out to my house one time, but it was too far,” he said. “She thought Amado was Arivaca.”

Oin Oakstar
(pool photo by Benjie
Sanders/Arizona Daily
Valdez admitted to knowing former Arivaca drug dealer Oin Oakstar, who testified last week.  “I’ve known him since I was a kid,” he said. “He’s not very truthful. He’s a drunk. He’s a junkie.”

Valdez also admitted knowing Gaxiola. “I met him through some friends,” he told the jury.

Valdez also testified that there is a familial relationship, as well. “His uncle is my son’s stepfather,” he said.

Small town

And, Valdez admitted knowing Flores and his family. “I had seen him a week earlier and I was having my daughter’s birthday that day and I asked him to bring the girls over,” he testified.

Valdez denied any involvement in drug trafficking since his conviction in U.S. District Court at Tucson. Testimony from Oakstar suggested a discussion had taken place in early 2009 involving Valdez, Gaxiola and himself regarding the need to eliminate Flores as competition in local drug smuggling. Valdez denied participating such a conversation. 

Valdez testified that he first heard about the murders the morning of May 30. “I walked into the store and the lady, Pat, who works there was crying and I asked her what happened and she told me what happened,” he said.

Deputy County Attorney Rick Unklesbay began cross-examination by pointing out that Valdez had legal counsel, Walter Nash, with him in court. “Where you aware that Det. Navarro attempted to contact you and both probation and your attorney declined to make you available?” Unklesbay asked. “No,” Valdez replied.

Former kingpin

Unklesbay started to ask Valdez if he played a significant role in the Arivaca drug trade prior to his federal court conviction. The result was a defense objection and a lengthy bench conference. Unklesbay asked Valdez if he had significant competitors in the drug trade in Arivaca at that time. “Gaxiola wasn’t around at that time and Junior was doing his thing, but I’m not sure what he was doing,” Valdez said.

Valdez was asked about a conversation he had with Gaxiola about marijuana and a relationship with Junior Flores in weeks prior to the home invasion. “The only thing he told me was they were beefing. He didn’t tell me why,” he said. Valdez admitted he spoke to Flores regarding his discussion with Gaxiola.

Valdez was also asked if he knew what the term green light means. He was also asked if Gaxiola came to him to ask permission to kill Flores. He denied knowing anything about the situation.

Forde’s license plate

Retired Tucson Police Officer Lewis Adams testified regarding a request from Gaxiola neighbor Inga Hartman. Hartman has testified that she asked her friend Byron Easter to write down the license plate number of an orange Honda Element belonging to Forde. She said she called Adams on June 1, two days after the home invasion, asking him to find out the name of the vehicle’s owner. Adams testified that Hartman called him on Saturday, May 30, the morning of the murders.

Adams was also asked about the ability of cellphone users to acquire a usable signal between Arivaca and Arivaca Junction at I-19. Adams testified there were no usable signals until you reached “Cellphone Hill,” three miles east of Arivaca on the Arivaca Road. Adams testified that you could acquire usable cellphone signals from several different carriers in different locations.  

The trial is adjourned until Tuesday, June 28, due to a requirement that Judge John S. Leonardo to attend the annual judicial conference of all judges in the state in Phoenix.