EDINBURG — Three-year-old Julian Garcia was still alive when a Starr County sheriff’s deputy discovered him in the aftermath of a shooting in 2016, his father’s body protectively slouched over him, as the boy’s intestines protruded out his abdomen.
The graphic details were revealed during the first day of testimony in the trial of Jesus Angel Rebollar, the man facing capital murder charges in the shooting deaths of Julian and his father, 41-year-old Hector Garcia.
The older Garcia was pronounced dead at the scene on the corner of Woods Brothers Road and La Sagunada Road in Rio Grande City on Nov. 6, 2016, while his son was pronounced dead at Starr County Memorial Hospital later that day.
Family members in attendance often had to step out of the courtroom when they appeared overwhelmed by the testimony.
Those called to testify on the first day included two Starr County sheriff’s deputies, a former deputy, a paramedic, an administrative assistant with the Starr County Sheriff’s Office, and a former investigator with the 229th District Attorney’s office.
The two current deputies, Gumaro Treviño Jr. and Jose Joel Rocha, the first on the scene that afternoon, described what they found upon questioning from 229th Assistant District Attorney Gilberto Hernandez-Solano.
Treviño described how he found an older model Chevy pickup truck — back window shattered and the passenger door open — with Hector lying inside on his side over Julian as if trying to shield his young son.
Rocha called for EMS while Treviño tried to get a response from either of the victims, according to Treviño.
“At that point, the child turned his head and I heard him scream and he picked up his arm,” Treviño said.
Rocha and Treviño both testified that when they decided to take Julian themselves to seek medical attention after Rocha was informed there was going to be one EMS dispatched from the center of town.
They wrapped him in an emergency blanket and took them into Rocha’s unit, meeting up with EMS at a Country Store where paramedics began tending to the child.
Treviño said he rode with EMS as they traveled to a pickup location for aerial evacuation to transport Julian to McAllen. However, he condition worsened to where a heart rate became undetectable, at which point they turned around to take him to Starr County Memorial Hospital.
On cross-examination, Defense Attorney O. Rene Flores questioned the deputies on the location of the incident, the distance from the initial shooting to where Hector’s truck ended up. However, they could not provide exact measurements.
Flores also questioned them about another vehicle that had arrived at the scene, after the incident, attempting to drive through the area. Treviño said he had to stop the individual, who was driving a gray pickup, from entering the scene but Treviño said he did not take the driver’s name down and did not include him in his report.
After seeing the man approach Treviño, Rocha said he detained him and placed him in the back of Treviño’s unit. The two deputies then proceeded to take off with the child.
The deputies also acknowledged that in transporting Julian to receive medical attention, they left the scene unattended, though they were told other deputies were on their way.
Among those who eventually arrived on the scene was Trinidad Lopez, the former investigator for the DA’s office. He testified about processing the scene, photographing and marking the bullet casings found of which he estimated there were between 20 and 25.
Lopez said he took up upon himself to begin processing the scene in order to clear the area faster for traffic, adding that he could see some of the casings had already been run over by vehicles going in and out. When Flores questioned why Lopez hadn’t marked off the scene, Lopez reiterated he was just there to help out.
However, Juan Alaniz, the former sheriff’s deputy, later testified that he had requested that a perimeter be set up around the scene to prevent others from entering the area.
Alaniz was the last witness to testify on Wednesday before the jury was dismissed around 3:40 p.m., a reprieve from the long night they had the day before during jury selection.
Though opening statements were initially expected to be held on Tuesday, jury selection on the case lasted from 1 p.m. to about 8 p.m. that day, pushing the start of trial to Wednesday morning.
The Voire Dire — the process by which the attorneys select or reject jurors — was handled by Flores for the defense and the 229th District Attorney Omar Escobar for the state.
The jury was dismissed early on Wednesday to allow the court to consider an issue regarding witness testimony out of the jury’s presence, the issue being whether to allow testimony from a witness who was at the scene to be heard by the jury at all.
The witness, who had been driving home with his wife on the day in question, drove up on Garcia’s Chevy truck as the incident was happening.
He said he saw Garcia’s truck drive up La Sagunada Road and onto Woods Brothers Road only to be followed by the alleged perpetrators who were in a blue, Ford pickup truck. The witness said he saw at least two shooters fire at the victims’ truck with AK47s.
When interviewed by the Texas Rangers, the witness said he got a clear view of one of the suspects as their truck turned around to follow Hector.
In a video of his interview, the witness described the suspect as a light-skinned man, around 20 years old, with a small beard. In a video of a second interview with the Texas Rangers, the witness was shown two photos — a group photo and a photo of a man’s Facebook profile, believed to belong to Rebollar.
At the second photo, the witness said he was 85 percent sure that was the man he saw at the scene.
Flores is requesting this testimony be excluded, arguing that the identification of his client was “unduly suggested.”
“When (the witness) was brought into the sheriff’s department to be interviewed, he was not shown a photo lineup,” Flores said. “No photo lineup was generated for (the witness) to identify the defendant.”
A decision on the witness testimony was not reached Wednesday with arguments on the issue to be picked up at a later time.
The trial is scheduled to continue Thursday morning.