Trial recessed until Friday

Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal

Prosecutors brought a number of witnesses to the stand Wednesday, as testimony continued in the capital murder trial of Alonzo "Lowrider" Gonzalez.

Gonzalez is charged with the Jan. 2, 2006 murder of Javier "Jammer" Sanchez.

On Wednesday, the jury heard more testimony from James Dennis, who was with Sanchez on the night of his murder.

Defense attorney Jon Kelly questioned Dennis about a number of conflicting statements he provided to law enforcement in the year following the murder.

In some statements, Dennis told prosecutors he could not recognize any of the men involved in Sanchez's shooting because they all wore masks and he had followed the men and watched them shoot Sanchez.

In his testimony to the jury on Tuesday, Dennis said the men did not wear masks and identified all of them, including Gonzalez. Dennis also said he had not followed the men and had not witnessed Sanchez's death.

On Wednesday, Dennis said those statements were a "smoke screen" to protect himself and his family from retaliation, and identified Gonzalez as a Mexican Mafia member.

The jury also heard testimony from Juan Sanchez, the brother of Javier Sanchez. Juan Sanchez told the jury that on the day of his brother's murder, he spoke with Gonzalez by telephone and Gonzalez told him his brother would "get what's coming to him."

Under cross examination, Sanchez was asked why he had not relayed that conversation to investigators in his statement to them immediately after his brother's death. Sanchez stated he had identified Gonzalez as a possible suspect at that time, but that he was "not in a right state of mind" immediately following his brother's death.

Prosecutors also called to the stand Gloria Lopez, who testified about a statement she gave to authorities in February 2006 in which she said she overheard at a party Gonzalez bragging about killing Sanchez.

Lopez, who at times Wednesday refused to cooperate with questioning from prosecutor Thomas Turner, said in the statement Gonzalez told her he killed Sanchez because Sanchez's father had not "taken care of his debt."

During her testimony Wednesday, Lopez said she had provided the written statement because investigators had paid her $250 and pressured her by showing her pictures of Sanchez's body.

Under further questioning, Lopez said she believed the information in the statement could be true, but that she was "drunk and high" at the party.

Prosecutors also called to the stand Rolando Garza, another individual who told the jury he had heard Gonzalez and another suspect, Alfred "Casper" Gonzalez, bragging about the killing at a party.

Under cross examination, however, Garza said he spoke with Dennis while they were both incarcerated in the county jail, and Dennis told him he had shot Sanchez twice in the upper body in order to obtain a high rank in the Mexican Mafia.

Garza said he brought that information to District Attorney Joe Frank Garza and Lee Ramon, an investigator with the district attorney's office in April, but that he had been told the case did not involve Dennis.

Following that testimony, Turner called Ramon to the stand and questioned him about Garza's statements to the jury.

Ramon denied such a conversation could have happened, because he did not begin working with the district attorney's office until May. Ramon said he had been present for one meeting with Garza in the district attorney's office in June, but that no statements were written down or recorded.

Testimony concluded Wednesday with comments from Barbara Law, who identified herself as Gonzalez's ex-girlfriend. Law testified Gonzalez contacted her in May 2006, following his arrest, and asked her to make a statement indicating she had spoken with him on the telephone all night during the night of Jan. 1 and the morning of Jan. 2, 2006, when the murder is alleged to have occurred.

Law said she did provide law enforcement with that statement, but said Wednesday she observed Gonzalez leaving in a gold SUV the night Sanchez was killed.

Previous testimony has identified a gold Ford Expedition as one of the vehicles allegedly used in Sanchez's kidnapping and murder.

With Tropical Storm Erin making landfall in South Texas today, District Judge Richard Terrell recessed court until Friday. The trial is expected to continue into next week.