|Raul & Brisenia Flores|
The Pima County Superior Court jury that will decide if former Arivaca resident Albert Robert Gaxiola spends the rest of his life in prison or is executed by lethal injection were told, Wednesday, about the impact the deaths of Raul “Junior” Flores and his daughter, Brisenia, had on the lone surviving victim of the May 30, 2009, home invasion.
Last Friday, Gaxiola, 44, was found guilty on two counts of first-degree murder and six other charges. Earlier this year, Jason Eugene Bush and Shawna Forde were found guilty on the same charges in separate trials. They both ended up with death sentences imposed by the juries hearing the evidence of their crimes.
Earlier in the day, the jury had found Gaxiola was eligible to receive the death penalty for the two courts of first-degree murder. At the start of the penalty phase of the trial proceedings victims are afforded an opportunity to make a verbal statement to the jury regarding the impact the crime has had on them.
Gina Gonzalez, who was wounded twice the night her husband and daughter were murdered told the jury that the events of that night had changed her life forever. “The defendant and my family hung out together,” she said. “He played video games with my daughters, he told them how beautiful they were and how well behaved they were. The memory that most sticks out in my mind was when the defendant would throw Brisenia up in the air, catch her, make her laugh and we were all friends.”
Member of the family
Earlier in the trial, Gonzalez had testified that she considered Gaxiola to be family. Gonzalez said during cross-examination by the defense that 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.”
Defense counsel also asked Gonzales 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. “How could someone who loves my family standby and allow a child to be murdered?” Gonzalez asked, rhetorically as she addressed the jury, Wednesday.
Gonzalez told the jury that her family was the victims in this situation. “I can’t possibly understand what she could have done to deserve this. What could I have done to deserve this? What could my husband have done to deserve this? What did Alexandra, my oldest daughter, do to deserve this?” she asked, rhetorically. “She lost her little sister who was her best friend and her father who she misses very much. I am still in denial about the whole thing. I can’t believe that someone I loved and trusted could have done this to my family.”
Gonzalez told the jury, Wednesday, that it took her a while to come to the realization that Gaxiola really had played a role in the deaths of her husband and daughter. “For the longest time I never thought that the defendant could have been capable of doing something like this,” she said.
Gonzalez shared with the jury the ordeal she went through at the funeral for her daughter, who had to have her face repaired by the funeral home, and husband. “It was very hard to see my child in her casket and it was also hard to see my husband in his casket,” she said.
Love of her life
Gonzalez told the jury that she and her husband was the love of her life and that they had been together since they were 15-years-old. “When my hubby was murdered we were two-and-a-half months short of being married 13 years,” she said. “We had built our lives together. We were looking forward to growing old together.”
Gonzalez said that after trials for three defendants involved in these murders she still has unanswered questions, especially when it comes to the role Gaxiola played. “It’s hard for me to understand how this all happened. I have so many questions that only he can answer. I just need to know why,” she said. “My life is ruined.”
Evil among us
The last words spoken by Gonzalez to the jury left an impression. “I now know that evil lives among us and comes in many forms. It can even befriend you, gain your trust and kill your family,” she said.