EDINBURG — With tears in her eyes, Laura De La Cruz recalled the moments when the man she loved shot his friend and then pointed a gun at her face.
“I was very afraid,” De La Cruz said. “He had just shot a man and I feared he was going to kill me.”
De La Cruz’s testimony came Tuesday — the opening day of arguments in the trial of Carlos Ochoa, her ex-boyfriend. Ochoa, son of former Edinburg Mayor Joe Ochoa, has pleaded not guilty after being accused of fatally shooting friend and neighbor Alberto Treviño at Carlos Ochoa’s home Sept. 17, 2011.
De La Cruz recalled how her former lover put the gun down on a table after fatally shooting his friend, approached her and began squeezing her neck.
“I prayed,” De La Cruz said as she wiped tears from her eyes. “I prayed to the Lord to send my guardian angels to protect me … I then felt at peace and asked to have my sins forgiven.”
Police then knocked on the door to Ochoa’s home and he answered. De La Cruz said she fled out the back door as Treviño’s final moments alive were mired by bleeding, twitching and involuntary spasms as he lay slumped on the bar.
That description caused some of Treviño’s family members to run out of the courtroom in tears Tuesday.
BEFORE THE SHOOTING
De La Cruz had driven Ochoa to his house earlier that night after he had arrived at hers and the two smoked marijuana and drank, De La Cruz said.
“He told me he had taken six to eight Xanax pills,” said De La Cruz, who at the time was a teacher at Idea Quest Academy. “He offered me some, but I didn’t take any. I didn’t know what effect it would have on my body. We did smoke about half a joint.”
Xanax, a brand name often used to refer generally to similar medications, is an addictive prescription and commonly abused anti-anxiety drug.
Ochoa left the house when De La Cruz went to the bathroom. Worried about where he went, De La Cruz said she drove around the neighborhood looking for him.
She later found him back at the house, after Ochoa went to party with neighbors before being asked to leave.
Defense attorney O. Rene Flores told jurors Ochoa had gone to the house of neighbor Horacio Peña, an off-duty U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer who was having some friends over to watch a boxing match.
Flores told jurors that his client had in fact been drinking and smoking marijuana but was also suffering from the effects of Lorazepan pills — a drug similar to Xanax — and had been acting in an irrational manner.
Flores quoted various examples of his client’s awkward behavior, such as saying that he had to “kill all of the Germans” and that he had been fighting the “demons.”
“These are not the actions of a rational man,” Flores said. “While watching the boxing matches at the party, he said he was happy that it wasn’t two Jews fighting.”
Ochoa “asked De La Cruz to help him kill all the Germans and (said) he was protecting her from the demons,” Flores said.
As for the host at the gathering, “I didn’t know who (Ochoa) was,” Peña testified. “I wasn’t going to let him inside my property, but Mr. Treviño told me that he was also a neighbor and they were friends and he was an OK guy.”
Peña said he didn’t talk much with Ochoa until a coworker told him he had a gun.
Peña told jurors how he snuck up from behind and took the gun away. Then, along with Treviño, they walked Ochoa back to his house. Peña kept the handgun and called police to turn it over to them.
When police went to check on Ochoa, Peña said, they heard De La Cruz’s screams and arrested the former mayor’s son.
De La Cruz returned to Ochoa’s house after driving around the block looking for him, she testified.
Inside, she found Treviño, with whom she discussed who would stay to care for Ochoa.
Before either noticed, Ochoa picked up another gun and went to his bathroom, where he pointed the gun at his own head, De La Cruz said.
“I ran out screaming that he had another gun,” she said. “The victim said it was OK, that Carlos (Ochoa) was his friend and he wouldn’t hurt him.”
Prosecutors said Ochoa then removed the bullets from his semi-automatic pistol — except for one left in the chamber.
Ochoa told Treviño that single bullet was for him and pulled the trigger, De La Cruz testified.
During cross examination, Flores asked De La Cruz about a conversation she had had with his client’s mother, Lydia Ochoa, where she said Ochoa had been acting as if he were a different person.
During the exchange, Flores brought out a card that De La Cruz had sent her after the slaying, where she recalled what happened that night.
She'd written to the mother, saying she felt horrible about what had happened. The two women later talked on the phone about how her son had acted so different that night, beyond his normal self.
Witness testimony was expected to resume Wednesday morning.
Ildefonso Ortiz covers courts, law enforcement and general assignments for The Monitor. He can be reached at email@example.com and at (956) 683-4437.
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