|Raul & Brisenia|
The Pima County Superior Court jury hearing the double murder trial for former Arivaca resident Albert Robert Gaxiola has returned guilty verdicts on all charges. Deliberations took about five hours.
Gaxiola, 44, was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder in the May 30, 2009, deaths of Raul “Junior” Flores and his daughter, Brisenia, 9. Gaxiola was also found guilty of 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.
Now that the jury has found Gaxiola guilty of the two counts of first-degree murder the trial will move to the aggravation phase starting on Wednesday, July 6. If the jury finds one of the alleged aggravators, multiple murders and a victim under the age of 15, to have been proven then the trial will move to the penalty phase where the burden lies with the defense to persuade the jury to grant the defendant leniency.
During closing arguments in the trial, Thursday, the jury was reminded of a text message sent on May 30, 2009, by the defendant just hours after the a deadly home invasion in Arivaca.
That message sent by Gaxiola read “Sweet dreams.” Deputy County Attorney Rick Unklesbay paused for a moment. “They had just killed a 9-year-old. They had just killed her father. They had just wounded Gina,” he said. “And, Albert Gaxiola’s text message back to Shawna Forde was ‘Sweet dreams.’ Shawna Forde’s reply was: ‘You’re one of my minutemen.’”
Unklesbay found himself searching for words. “I’m not sure what words can adequately characterize the actions of these people,” he said. “This is beyond outrageous. This is just downright scary.”
During those same closing arguments defense counsel Jack L. Lansdale suggested to the jury that his client was incapable of harming Brisenia or her sister. He asked the jury to recall testimony by the medical examiner complete with detailed pictures of the injuries suffered by Brisenia and her father. “Did anyone of you hearing the testimony during the presentation of the photographs of Brisenia Flores happen to notice Albert and his reaction?” he asked, rhetorically. “For him to participate in any action to hurt those children is incomprehensible.”
Lansdale also reminded the jury that opening statements and closing arguments in a trial are not evidence. “The state stood up and said to you: ‘We’re going to prove to you that Albert Gaxiola was present and that he was involved in the break-in of this home,’” he said. “It’s absolutely inconsistent with the facts.”
Unklesbay argued to the jury, Thursday, that the defendant and a fellow drug dealer, Oin Oakstar, had been planning the death of Flores for months. “If it weren’t so serious it would almost be funny in some ways that they have these plans that they can’t carry out,” he said. “It was not until Albert Gaxiola brings in Shawna Forde and Jason Bush that things begin to come together.”
Unklesbay suggested that it took the help of a so-called minuteman organization in order to accomplish those plans. Also, the goals that Forde and Bush have are not the same as those shared by Gaxiola and Oakstar. “It was not until the defendant brings in these two outsiders who have no idea or concept of what’s going on in Arivaca. They don’t know who the drug dealers are. They don’t know where these drug dealers live,” he said.