Pictured: Asst. District Attorney Jon West, right, presents his closing arguments to the jury as the defendant in the case, Rene Charo, and his attorneys Charles Barrera and John Gillmore listen. Photo by SUE FLEMING

Attorneys presented closing arguments Wednesday afternoon

Sue Fleming, Duval County Correspondent

SAN DIEGO - Testimony resumed in the Duval County Courthouse Wednesday in the intoxication manslaughter and assault trial of Rene Armando Charo of Benavides.

Charo is charged with intoxication assault of Rita Roxanne Luna and intoxication manslaughter of Amanda Celeste Lichtenberger.

The charges result from a motor vehicle accident that occurred on May 17, 2003.

Charo is represented by attorneys Charles Barrera and John Gilmore.

Assistant District Attorney Rudy Gutierrez called witness Pct. 3 Justice of the Peace Benny Garza to the stand.

Garza testified he arrived at the accident scene, which was two miles north on Highway 339 between Freer and Benavides, at 2:45 a.m.

At 3:15 a.m. he pronounced Lichtenberger dead, stating the cause was massive head and neck injuries.

The defense then called its first witness, Esmeralda Garcia, to the stand.

Garcia is a registered nurse at a hospital in Corpus Christi.

"I document history from patients," she said.

Reading from a page document, Garcia said she attended Luna, who had been hospitalized for injuries following the accident.

Gilmore asked what other information was written on the document which she had obtained from Luna.

"Patient stated, 'saw an animal in the road, swerved to avoid and rolled.'"

She noted the time written on the form was 2:50 a.m.

Miguel Garcia then testified he was a visitor of Luna's when she was in the hospital following the accident.

"She said the last thing she remembered was Amanda saying, 'watch out, you're going to hit it' and Amanda grabbed the wheel," he said.

Assistant District Attorney Jon West cross-examined, asking Miguel Garcia if Luna had said she also had seen something in the road.

Miguel Garcia said she did not.

The third witness, Robert Garcia, told defense attorneys he too, had visited Luna in the hospital after learning of the accident.

During that time, he said Luna told him they had been on their way back to Freer after being at a party in Benavides. Luna was was on her cell phone and Amanda jerked the steering wheel, he said.

Another witness called, Melissa Ramirez, also recalled visiting Luna in the hospital.

Ramirez also said Luna said the accident was caused when the steering wheel was grabbed by Lichtenberger.

Gutierrez questioned Ramirez if she had been at the party. She said no.

Witness Rita Ramirez Garcia then also told of a similar conversation with Luna while visiting her in the hospital.

"She said she was on her cell and Amanda was yelling an animal was in the road and grabbed the wheel," Rita Ramirez Garcia said.

Luna testified Tuesday she never said Lichtenberger grabbed the steering wheel after seeing an animal in the road.

The final witness called, Elvia Lerma of Freer, testified she was an employee at the Liberty Cafe when the accident occurred four years ago.

Lerma said the owner of the restaurant, Marty Salinas, and her daughter, who is Rita Roxanne Luna, reside behind the cafe.

"Were DPS Trooper Edward Groves and Marty living together then?" asked Gilmore.

They were living together, she answered.

Employees were not to enter the house to get money when Groves was inside, Lerma said.

Groves testified Tuesday he began seeing Salinas three months after the accident when questioned by the defense.

Both sides then rested their cases.

In his closing arguments to the jury, West said, "this case is every parent's nightmare."

West told jurors records show Charo was found to have twice the legal limit of alcohol in his system after the accident.

"This is the most random act of violence on the road and we can't allow this to go on," he said.

In closing arguments, Barrera stressed to the jury to base their decision on evidence which the defense had presented.

"If you cannot believe Rita Roxanne Luna, then you cannot find Rene Charo guilty," said Gilmore.

"If you have a reasonable doubt, you have to do your duty to say, not guilty," he said.

Jury deliberation was to continue this morning.