An eyewitness placing Jesus Angel Rebollar at the scene where a Starr County man and his 3-year-old son were brutally killed in 2016 was allowed to testify Thursday.
Rebollar is facing capital murder charges in the deaths of Hector Garcia Jr. and Julian Garcia on Nov. 6, 2016, at the corner of Woods Brothers Road and La Sagunada Road in Rio Grande City.
The witness, a man, testified that he was traveling on La Sagunada Road that evening when he came across Garcia’s blue, Chevy, pickup truck.
Shortly after, he saw another vehicle — a blue Ford pickup truck — in front of the Chevy whose passengers, the witness said, he saw fire upon Hector Garcia’s Chevy truck.
The Ford carried about five passengers, according to the witness, one of whom was brandishing a gun while sitting on the window.
But the passenger the witness said he was able get the clearest view of was a young, light-skinned man with a long nose, facial hair, and a short hair style — a man the witness identified as Rebollar.
Visiting state District Judge Jose Longoria allowed the witness to testify about what he saw that day in spite of the protests of Rebollar’s defense attorney, O. Rene Flores.
Flores sought to exclude the witness testimony identifying Rebollar, arguing that the identification of his client had been “unduly suggested” by law enforcement.
Outside of the presence of the jury, Flores and the prosecutor for the state, 229th Assistant District Attorney Gilberto Hernandez-Solano, argued the issue just before lunch on Thursday to determine whether the witness would be allowed to testify.
As part of that process, Flores questioned Texas Ranger Rolando A. Villarreal Jr. who had interviewed the witness twice and showed him photos of Rebollar for purposes of identification.
Villarreal testified that he showed the witness three photos — a group photo that included Rebollar, a photo of Rebollar’s Facebook profile, and a photo of another individual whom the witness dismissed.
Flores grilled the Ranger over why he only showed those particular photos to the witness rather than compiling a photo array to which Villarreal responded that he did not have enough descriptive details to compile one.
When Flores asked about the source of the photos, Villarreal said he had received them as a tip from then-Assistant District Attorney Abel Villarreal, a detail that the judge said he found deeply troubling.
Still, Longoria ultimately said he could not exclude the witness’s testimony and allowed him to proceed. However, just as the judge recessed for the day, the witness became lightheaded prompting the response from various deputies present though they quickly determined he was fine.
Still, he was eventually taken to a hospital to be checked out, according to Starr County District Attorney Omar Escobar.
Earlier in the day, others who took the stand Thursday included a forensic pathologist, a forensic scientist, and a trace analyst.
Norma Jean Farley, the forensic pathologist, started off the proceedings on Thursday morning — going over the autopsies she conducted for both Hector and Julian.
Farley says she counted about six gunshot wounds on Julian, an additional abrasion on the forehead that could have been from the metal jacket but was no longer there when she examined him.
One round, Farley determined, hit the liver and was likely fatal.
On Hector, the pathologist said there were 36 entry wounds, most of them on his back. But for both victims, Farley said there was no evidence the gunshots were fired at close range.
Waleska Castro, the trace analyst with the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences at Dallas, testified regarding samples taken from clothes that belonged to Rebollar which included a blue and white plaid shirt and two pieces of underwear.
Castro said there are types of gunshot residue particles that they look at — particles characteristic of gunshot residue and particles consistent with gunshot residue.
The first means that the chemistry of the particles are rarely found in particles produced for any other source than from the discharge of a firearm while the second means that the particles could be produced from the discharge of a firearm but could also come from other environmental sources.
On the three pieces of clothes, Castro testified she found the second type of particles.
“They could be from the discharge of a firearm or it could be from environmental sources and I cannot tell you which one it is,” Castro said, closing out her testimony.
Day three of testimony is scheduled to begin Friday morning with the trial expected to spill over into next week.