A former member of the Minutemen American group founded by convicted murderer Shawna Forde testified Thursday that he observed, on the night of May 30, 2009, Forde hand a set of keys and a scrap of paper containing a phone number to Laine Lawless, an ardent supporter of Forde and the founder of a group known as the Border Guardians.
It was that set of keys that Lawless reportedly took to Tucson and handed to a person who may have been Albert Robert Gaxiola.
Gaxiola, 43, faces two counts of first-degree murder in Pima County Superior Court in connection with 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. If convicted, Gaxiola faces the same potential penalties as his co-defendants.
Those keys operated an orange Honda Element owned by Forde. Stonex had gone to the Gaxiola residence to provide first aide to Jason Bush who had suffered a wound to his leg.
The involvement by Lawless in the case came to light in greater detail during the argument of a motion filed by Lawless requesting the subpoena requiring her testimony in the Gaxiola trial be quashed.
Motion to quash
During argument of the motion on June 1, Deputy County Attorney Rick Unklesbay provided Criminal bench Presiding Judge Richard S. Fields with background regarding the involvement by Lawless in the deadly home invasion that took place shortly before 1 a.m. on May 30, 2009. “Later that same day on May 30th, about 8 o’clock in the evening, Ms. Lawless went to Arivaca with another gentleman by the name of Chuck Stonex,” he said. “Mr. Stonex has testified on the events that he and Ms. Lawless were involved in Arivaca during the evening hours on May 30th.”
Unklesbay said, during the June hearing, that Lawless has been interviewed by detectives and the lawyers involved in the case. “Ms. Lawless has admittted to law enforcement that she came into contact with Shawna Forde, a co-defendant in this case at a home that belonged to current defendant Albert Gaxiola,” he said. “Mr. Gaxiola was not present at that time according to Ms. Lawless and Mr. Stonex.”
Unklesbay said that Lawless did a favor for Forde on the evening of May 30, 2009. “Ms. Lawless admits that Shawna Forde gave her a set of car keys and asked her to deliver them to Tucson,” he said. “Our evidence will show that Mr. Gaxiola was in Tucson at the time and that Ms. Lawless gave a statement to detectives that she delivered those keys to a person by the name of Albert. Our defendant in this case is Albert Gaxiola. Ms. Lawless has subsequently indicated that the Albert she gave the keys to was not Albert Gaxiola.”
Whether or not the person Lawless delivered the car keys to in Tucson was Gaxiola, Unklesbay told Fields that there are text messages showing he had the keys. “Mr. Gaxiola was involved in some text messaging in which he indicated to Shawna Forde that he had received the car keys and would be driving Ms. Forde’s vehicle down to Arivaca,” he said.
The motion requesting that the subpoena be quashed was denied. Lawless, subsequently, filed a motion requesting witness immunity in the case. That motion has not been heard.
During the remainder of his testimony, Stonex was questioned regarding his involvement with Forde and the Minutemen. “My first trip to Arizona was in October 2008,” he said. “There was a Minuteman operation that was going on in the Three Points area that was directed by Shawna Forde and me and a friend mine were invited to come over and participate. It’s kind of like neighborhood watch. The Border Patrol can’t be everywhere.”
Stonex testified that he and Forde spoken on the phone and exchanged emails following that operation. Stonex was in Arizona to attend a barbeque on May 30 at the home of Glenn Spencer in Hereford. “She was supposed to be at that barbeque,” he said. “She didn’t show up.”
Stonex received a call from Forde around 8 a.m. on the morning of May 30 requesting that he obtain medical supplies and to come to Arivaca. “She called me and asked if she had brought a medical kit with me,” he testified.
While attending the barbeque, Stonex met Laine Lawless for the first time. “Prior to the barbeque Shawna had told me a lady was going to some journaling and write a book about her and if this woman was to call that it was okay for me to talk to her,” he said.
Stonex mentioned to Lawless during a discussion at the barbeque that he was leaving to see Forde in Arivaca and invited her to accompany him. They drove in separate vehicles as far as Arivaca Junction where Lawless left her vehicle and joined Stonex in his vehicle for the ride to Arivaca. Forde met them at the Arivaca Mercantile in a teal-colored van and led them to Gaxiola’s home.
During cross-examination defense counsel Jack L. Lansdale asked Stonex about the use of camouflage clothing during a Minuteman operation at Three Points. “It’s not exactly a church environment, a church neighborhood out there,” he said.
Large and in charge
Stonex said one of the reasons he had come to Three Points for the operation in 2008 was that he was curious about an operation being run by a female. “She was large and in charge,” he commented.
Lansdale asked Stonex, a former sergeant in the U.S. Army, about Bush’s nickname of Gunny. “In the Marine Corp. that’s a gunnery sergeant, an E-7 Marine Corp. rank. It didn’t mean nothing to me,” he said. “He had some interesting stories.”
Lansdale took an opportunity to ask Stonex about a weapon known as an AK-47. “It’s a military weapon that is popular with all of the Communist nations. You can’t hurt one, but it’s not accurate worth a darn,” he suggested.
“If I said to you I’m bringing some of my guns and you said what are you bringing and I said an AK. Would that mean something to you?” Lansdale asked. “That means you have any money to buy a real gun.”