|Albert Gaxiola (pool|
photo by Mamta Popat/
Arizona Daily Star)
The Pima County Superior Court jury in the double homicide trial for Arivaca resident Albert Robert Gaxiola was told Tuesday that Gaxiola may not have pulled the trigger on the gun that that killed Raul “Junior” Flores and his daughter, Brisenia, but he was the one who recruited co-defendants Shawna Forde and Jason Bush because he wanted Flores dead.
Gaxiola, 43, faces two counts of first-degree murder in the May 30, 2009 deaths of Flores and his daughter. 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.
During his opening statement, defense counsel Jack L. Lansdale pointed out to the jury that the prosecution had embellished the facts of the case they had presented during jury selection. “The state has added that they intend to prove that Gaxiola was the orchestrator of the crime,” he said.
Deputy County Attorney Kellie Johnson told the jury that it is clear that “Albert Gaxiola is the person who orchestrated all of this. It is Albert Gaxiola who wanted Raul Flores dead. He enlisted the help of two people by the name of Shawna Forde and Jason Bush.”
Johnson told the jury of seven males and nine females that the evening May 29-30, 2009, had had come to an end in the usual fashion until there was a loud knock at the door of the Flores home. “Present in her home were her husband Raul Flores and one of her daughters 9-year-old, soon to be 10, Brisenia Flores,” she said. “It was Friday night, soon to be Saturday morning, and Gina and Raul had gone to their bedroom. Raul was watching TV and Gina were asleep. Brisenia had fallen asleep in the living room on a love seat. Gina’s oldest daughter was spending the night with her grandmother.”
Johnson told the jury that Gonzalez is expected to testify about her husband answering the door. “She hears that more people enter the home,” she said.
After her she, her husband and daughter were shot Gonzalez was pretending to be dead. “She can hear these people talking,” Johnson said. “One is speaking Spanish and the other is speaking English. She can hear someone saying ‘She has another daughter. Where is everyone?’”
Bush questioned Brisenia about her sister who was spending the night at her grandmother’s house. “He loads the gun right in front of her. I could hear it,” said Gonzalez during questioning by Deputy County Attorney Rick Unklesbay. She was begging him not to shoot her.”
After shooting Brisenia twice the gunmen left. Gonzalez sat up and grabbed Brisenia. “I was telling her not to die on me,” Gonzalez said choking back tears.
After they gunmen left, Gonzalez grabbed a portable phone that was nearby and called 9-1-1. In the first two trials Gonzalez had testified to hoping and crawling to the kitchen on her wounded leg in order to get a phone and a handgun. While on the phone, the shooter re-enter the home and are surprised to find her alive and on the phone. Later, someone fitting the description of Gaxiola stuck his head onto the kitchen.
An AK-47 rifle that is left behind in the kitchen is tested and the DNA results show that Gaxiola had handled the weapon.
Lansdale told the jury about statements from prosecution witness Oin Glenn Oakstar about a trip to the Buffalo Ranch involving him, Gaxiola and Forde during the period of time just prior to the home invasion. “When asked if Shawna Forde was carrying a weapon his answer was ‘She was carrying an AK-47,’” he said.
Lansdale said they plan to elicit testimony that will show their client was an afterthought two days after the incident. “She gave a number of statements to a number of detectives,” he said.
Gonzalez was interviewed at length on May 31 by homicide detectives who ask her if she knows anyone who might want to force their way into her home and kill her husband and daughter. “She said that for some reason I’m thinking that it was Albert,” she told detectives. “She tells the police that she couldn’t see him but that she recognized his voice.”
Regarding the period when she was pretending to be dead Gonzalez told detectives that listened more that she was able to look. “She also said that she didn’t get a good look at his face at all and the lighting conditions were very dark,” Lansdale said.
Johnson told the jury they find out that Gonzalez and Gaxiola know each other. “Albert Gaxiola and Gina know each other. They’ve known one another for quite some time,” she said.
This tip leads the detectives to Gaxiola’s home in Arivaca where they find a teal-colored minivan with blood outside and inside. The blood was eventually tested and found to be that of Jason Bush. This leads to a search warrant for the home and all cellphones where they find a couple of text messages exchanged between Gaxiola and Forde.
After Gonzalez had called 9-1-1 and retrieved her husband’s handgun the shooters returned to her home. “The guy stuck his head in, she started screaming at him, he started retreating and she fired on him,” Lansdale told the jury. “She also said she heard a voice that was familiar to her.”
Johnson told the jury that it will be cleared that Gaxiola is guilty. “It will be clear to you that the state has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he was involved and that it was him who set this up,” she said. “While he may not have pulled the trigger that caused the deaths of Raul and Brisenia Flores the bottom line is that Jason Bush and Shawna Forde would have had no idea where to go if he hadn’t told them.”
Lansdale told the jury they will prove that their client did not participate in the home invasion. “Albert Gaxiola wasn’t present,” he said.