EDINBURG — His wife was five months pregnant with a baby boy when Julio Cesar Villarreal’s life was cut short at 32 years old following an altercation with Feliciano Flores Avalos Jr.
On the night of April 22, 2018, Villarreal had initially ignored Avalos’ taunts from across the street.
But Villarreal, a father of three young children with another one on the way, and someone who knew how to protect himself, eventually decided to confront Avalos, a man who was known to neighbors because of his threats and sometimes violent behavior around the neighborhood.
After being struck with a kick, however, Avalos pulled out the knife that he had just brandished at Villarreal and stabbed him in the leg, slicing a crucial artery that led Villarreal to bleed to death in his own front yard. At the time, the victim’s wife was tending to their three other young children inside.
When officers arrived in the 3400 block of North Mezcal that Sunday evening, body cameras captured the scene, showing a non-responsive Villarreal bleeding out in his front yard while Avalos was across the street, claiming he stabbed his neighbor in self-defense.
On Friday, 370th state District Judge Noe Gonzalez sentenced Avalos to life in state prison after a roughly two-week trial in which Avalos participated in his own defense.
Ricardo Flores represented Avalos during the trial, the record shows.
Avalos has a disability and was not employed at the time of the stabbing. Villarreal, a father and husband, worked as a quality control technician at a benefits company, according to people familiar with the case.
During the trial, which began in earnest July 1, several neighbors testified that Avalos tormented the neighborhood with threats and had wielded a knife at another neighbor in January 2018, which led to an arrest after he kicked a Pharr police officer who responded to the call.
Avalos was placed on probation March 28 in connection with that incident, but he would be back before the same judge less than a month later for stabbing Villarreal.
During the nearly two-week trial, the state presented evidence of Avalos’ reckless and violent behavior, specifically from those who were most tormented by his actions in and around his neighborhood.
According to jail records, Avalos has more than 30 arrests dating back nearly 15 years, with offenses ranging from misdemeanors like criminal mischief and public intoxication, to felonies like assault on a public servant and the murder he was charged with in April 2018 after Villarreal’s stabbing.
One of those cases, from September 2017, was used during the trial as an example of Avalos’ erratic and violent behavior.
On Sept. 6, 2017, Avalos allegedly threatened to kill a neighbor and was subsequently arrested on a misdemeanor charge for making a terroristic threat, records show.
Additionally, in March 2018, a month before he stabbed Villarreal, Avalos was convicted in the 370th state District court to three years probation in connection with an assault of a public servant that took place in January 2018. He received a three-year deferred sentence and 160 hours of community service, court records show.
He had entered a plea agreeing not to contend the charge, the record shows.
Assistant District Attorneys Vance Gonzales and Mauricio Martinez prosecuted the case.