Arivaca resident Inga Hartman has lived in that rural community for 13 years and had been the neighbor of Albert Robert Gaxiola at the time of the deadly home invasion at the home of Raul “Junior” Flores on May 29, 2009.
Gaxiola, 43, is on trial at Pima County Superior Court on two counts of first-degree murder in the shooting 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.
Hartman testified that she had suffered a heart attack in May 2009 and was still recovering. Hartman testified that she knew Gaxiola. “He was my neighbor in the duplex next door,” she said. “We talked over the fence some.”
Hartman testified that she learned of the deadly home invasion from a friend on May 30. “A friend of mine called me up Saturday afternoon at 2,” she said.
The evening of May 29, 2009, Hartman had retired to bed at 8 p.m. but awoke around 10 p.m. “I had a restless night. I slept on and off,” she recalled. “At 1:15, I woke up because somebody had been slamming a car lid in Albert’s yard. “I looked at the clock.”
Hartman went outside to investigate the source of the noise. “They tried to start the car and it flooded out and they slammed the lid. That was going on about six times,” she said. “I went out and looked over my back fence and I could see over there. There was a car and a lady in there with blond hair. I got a whiff of the exhaust and couldn’t breathe so I went back into the house.”
While Hartman was unable to see Gaxiola working on the stalled vehicle she assumed that it was Gaxiola. “My dogs didn’t bark because they knew Albert,” she said. “I heard Albert’s voice.”
Hartman testified that after she went into her house she heard the slamming of the hood another two times. She admitted she did not hear the car start and she did not hear it drive away.
She said the noise ceased about 10 minutes after she had awakened at 1:15 a.m. “It was about 15-20 minutes total,” Hartman clarified.
Hartman also testified that she saw a “pumpkin-colored” car drive down the street and stop at Gaxiola’s house around 5 a.m. as she was feeding her dogs. “I saw a guy go in and knock on Albert’s door, but Albert wasn’t there,” she testified.
Johnson showed Hartman a picture of Forde’s vehicle, a Honda Element, which she identifies as being the “pumpkin-colored” car. “It was a real strange color,” she said.
Hartman testified that a friend, Byron Easter, saw the same vehicle again early on Monday, June 2, 2009. She asked him to write down the license plate for the vehicle.
Easter, a 13-year resident of Arivaca, has been friends with Hartman for about seven years. “I would help her, spend the night over there in case she needed me,” he said.
Easter testified to knowing Gaxiola as Hartman’s neighbor. “I met Albert several years before that. I had lived next door to his aunt,” he said.
On May 29, 2009, Easter was doing yard work for Hartman when a van drove up to Gaxiola’s home. “I noticed that blue, teal van drove up,” he said.
Easter saw a woman and a tall male exit the van. “He was tall, black beard, black hair, pretty good size with a baseball cap,” he said. “I had never seen him before.”
After viewing television news coverage Easter recognized the tall male as Jason Bush.
Easter testified that he did not know Oin Oakstar, but after he was shown photos that the person he had seen exiting the van was not him.
Defense counsel Steven D. West asked Hartman if she knows someone by the name of Lewis Adams. “He used to be a police officer,” she said.
Hartman called Adams and provided him with the license plate number for the “pumpkin-colored” Honda Element. “You wanted him to run the plates off that orange Element?” West asked.
Hartman repeated her earlier answer that she obtained the license plate number with the assistance of Easter on Monday, June 1, 2009. “Do you recall making your phone call to Mr. Adams on Sunday morning?” West asked. “I made the call on Monday,” she replied.
“Do you also recall that when you talked with him that you told him the noise in the backyard took place between 12:15 and 12:30?” West asked. “It was at 1:15, not 12:15,” Hartman replied.