Gina Marie Gonzalez, the surviving victim of the May 30, 2009, fatal home invasion in Arivaca spent nearly three hours over two days on the stand testifying in the double-murder trial for Albert Robert Gaxiola at Pima County Superior Court.
Gaxiola, 43, faces 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.
Compared with her testimony in the Forde and Bush trials, questioning was more in-depth by both the prosecution and the defense. While Deputy County Attorney Kellie Johnson conducted direct examination of Gonzalez during the first two trials, this time Deputy County Attorney Rick Unklesbay asked the questions.
Gonzalez told the jury of seven males and nine females that she had lived in Arizona all of her life. She grew up in Sahuarita and she had lived in Arivaca for almost 13 years having moved there after her marriage to Junior Flores.
At the time of the home invasion, her daughter, Brisenia, was 9-years-old and would have turned 10-years-old had she live until December 2009.
Gonzalez testified that the home they lived in belonged to the grandparents of Junior Flores. “My father-in-law lived down on the other side of the wash and my brother-in-law,” she said. “It would have been 13 years in August.”
Gonzalez was asked to describe the community of Arivaca. “There’s no stoplights, very few stop signs, one store and ranches,” she said. “I worked at the mercantile, which was the little store in Arivaca and I also worked at the community center. It was an after school program for the kids.”
The Flores kids, Alexandra and Brisenia, attended school at Sopori Elementary in Lakewood, near the junction of Arivaca Road with I-19.
Unklesbay had Gonzalez look at aerial picture of Arivaca that had been obtain from Google Earth by the defense. She was asked to point out the location of her house. “They said it was right there so it must be,” she said.
Gonzalez also pointed to the location of a barn built by her husband. “His father lived behind that and his brother lives right here,” she said. “He built it and for a while he had a feed store and when he got rid of the feed store he used it to weld. He used it for his tools and storing stuff in there.”
May 29, 2009, was a day of transition for the Flores family. “They had just finished school,” Gonzalez said. “Brisenia and Alexandra were going to do summer school. Brisenia was outgrowing her shoes so we took her to Tucson to buy her new shoes.”
Gonzalez wanted to pick up her older daughter on the way to Tucson but was unable to reach her parents. “Alexandra, my other daughter, was at her nana’s house and I needed to pick her up,” she testified. Gonzalez learned later that her parents had taken Alexandra to Madera Canyon for the day.
Preview of things to come
Before they could go to Tucson, Gonzales had to find her misplaced car keys. While conducting the search, in the front yard, a teal-colored van drove by and the female passenger reluctantly returned her wave. Gonzalez would learn that Forde, Bush and another Arivaca resident, Oin Oakstar, were scouting out her property and home for later that night.
On the way back from Tucson they stopped in Sahuarita to pick up Alexandra, a niece and Diane Gonzalez, Gina’s sister. “Alexandra wanted to stay another day and my sister said she wasn’t feeling good,” she said. Thus, they avoided the fate of the rest of the Flores family later that night.
They arrived home around 11 p.m., unloaded the car and went to bed. Brisenia was sleeping on a love seat in the living room with her new puppy. “I had just washed her bed and cleaned her room and I didn’t want the animals in there,” Gonzalez testified.
Gonzales also testified that she was asleep when her husband told her to get up and put some clothes on because law enforcement was outside their home. “I went straight into the living room and sat where Brisenia was,” she said. “She was still asleep.”
When Flores opened the front door, a heavy-set female was yelling to hurry up. “She says open it or we’ll shoot you,” Gonzalez told the jury. “She said the house was surrounded by Border Patrol.”
Flores asked for identification from the camouflage-clad female and male entered their home. “They said that they didn’t have time for that,” she recalled.
Gonzalez described the intruders as a “short, heavy-set woman and a very tall big guy.” Unklesbay stood about 14 feet in front of Gonzales to demonstrate the distance she was from the female intruder. “She was short, heavy-set; she had no make up on; her mannerism was very mean; she had camouflage on; her hair was parted down the middle and framed around her face and was talking up like a drill sergeant,” she said.
Gonzalez described the tall make intruder as a “little weird, a little nervous. He was very, very tall with a weird hairline and he was in camouflage as well.” Bush’s face “was painted black.”
Flores resumed asking questions as to why these people were in their home. That was when the tall guy shot Flores the first time. “He says ‘don’t take this personal but this bullet has your name on it,’” Gonzalez testified. “Junior jumped of the couch and they wrestled. The guy was taller and stronger.”
Gonzalez jumped up as her husband was shot and was shot by the tall male. “He shot me in the shoulder, which came out the bottom of my right breast,” she said. “And, he shot me in my thigh. When he hit me in the leg it just completely knocked me down.”
At that point, Gonzalez decided to play dead. “I laid on the floor very scared. I heard Junior taking his last breaths,” she said.
Eventually, the tall male doing the shooting addressed Brisenia, who by now had awakened, about her older sister. “He was telling her that nothing was going to happen to her and that everything was going to be okay,” Gonzalez related. “She was crying a lot. She was scared.”
Brisenia told the shooter that her sister was staying with her grandmother’s house. Brisenia was asked if the body on the floor in front of the love seat was her sister. “At first she said yes. Then she tips over and looks and says ‘that’s my mom; why did you shoot my mom?’” Gonzalez said.
Brisenia meets her fate
At that point the shooter pauses to reload his weapon as Brisenia watches. “I could hear him put the bullets in the gun,” Gonzalez said. “She was begging him not to shoot her.”
What followed were two more blasts from his gun in the direction of her daughter. “He shot her. I saw her fly back. He shot her twice,” Gonzalez said.
By that time the female intruder told her compatriots that they had to leave. They paused first to search the home for money and drugs. After they left, Gonzalez did what any mother would do. “I sat up and grabbed Brisenia. I was telling her not to die on me,” she testified. “She was shaking really hard.”
Gonzalez was able to get a portable phone on an ottoman close by thus she call 9-1-1. “I asked them what I should do,” she recalled.
At that point, the female leader re-entered the home with a big smile on her face. “I’m panicking; I’m freaking out; a million things are going through my head,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez remember that her husband had a gun in the kitchen. As she made her way to the kitchen her leg snapped. After retrieving the gun she exchanged gunshots with the tall male shooter wounding him in the leg.
After law enforcement and emergency services units arrived at her home Gonzalez was transported by ambulance to the Arivaca Fire Department and from there she was flown by air ambulance to University Medical Center in Tucson where she spent five weeks. “I have a titanium rod from my pelvic bone all the way down to my knee,” she said.
Her shoulder wound became infected in January 2010 requiring additional hospitalization. “I needed another surgery,” she said.
Unklesbay asked Gonzalez if she knew Oin Oakstar. “I know of him. I don’t know him,” she said.
Oakstar had come into the Arivaca Mercantile twice with his girlfriend prior to the home invasion. Unklesbay asked Gonzalez if she knew Oakstar by sight and if he was in her house during the home invasion. She answered that she knew Oakstar by sight and that she had not seen him in her home.
|Albert Gaxiola (pool|
photo by Mamta Popat/
Arizona Daily Star)
Defense counsel Jack L. Lansdale was interested in the relationship between his client and Gonzalez and her family. Gonzalez said a member of the Gaxiola family, Bernice is her Godmother, but they are not related by blood. “I was introduced to him in 2002 by my Godmother,” she testified. “I think that I met him, was reacquainted with him in 2007. His grandma had passed away and he had come down for that.”
Lansdale told Gonzales that they were not trying to do a family tree; he asked her if she considered Gaxiola to be part of her family. “Yes, I consider him to be a relative,” she admitted.
Another relative of Gaxiola is married to an uncle of Gonzalez. Lansdale asked Gonzalez if she had mentioned in a statement to detectives that she thought his client’s last name was actually Sanchez. “Bernice’s last name was Sanchez so I couldn’t figure out his last name,” Gonzalez said.
At one point in time, Gaxiola worked at the feed store near the mercantile. Gaxiola would visit Gonzalez at the store and he also would pick up her daughters from the community center. “He did it twice,” she recalled.
Gaxiola also had dinner at the Flores home a number of times. Gonzalez had mentioned that her daughters loved Gaxiola and he reciprocated that expression of love.
Lansdale asked Gonzalez about the cash in her purse and some money under the mattress in the master bedroom. “The cops gave me back $4,000 and something in cash,” she testified.
Gonzalez said she had $3,000 in her purse and $1,200 in elsewhere. “Some of it was found in the dresser. Underneath the mattress I think I had $4-500,” she added.
Gonzales testified on re-direct examination by Unklesbay why they had a large sum of cash in the house. Gonzalez testified that she had intended to stop at a bank to obtain money orders to pay a couple of credit card bills that included the charges for a recent family vacation.