Alibi witness testifies in Starr Co. murder case

EDINBURG — It was finally the defense’s turn to make their case Tuesday in the trial for Jesus Angel Rebollar, the man facing capital murder charges stemming from the 2016 shooting deaths of a Rio Grande City man and his 3-year-old son.

Rebollar’s defense attorney, O. Rene Flores, called on Luis Basaldua, one of Rebollar’s childhood friends, who testified that the defendant was with him the entire day of Nov. 6, 2016 — the day that Hector Garcia, 41, and Julian Garcia, 3, were shot down on the corner of La Sagunada and Woods Brothers roads in Rio Grande City.

Basaldua testified that that afternoon, he, Rebollar, and a group of friends went to the home of a friend, a barber, for a haircut at around 6 or 7 p.m.

Basaldua said that when he was interviewed by the Texas Rangers approximately a month later, on Dec. 6, 2016, he told them about going to the barber’s home and told the Rangers to check the surveillance video taken by security cameras that were apparently set up at the barber’s home.

However, he didn’t know whether the Rangers followed up on the video and said the Rangers had scared him during the interview and accused him of lying.

During cross-examination, 229th District Attorney Omar Escobar noted that Basaldua told the Rangers that he placed a call to their friend, the barber, about going over for a haircut at 6:50 p.m. and they didn’t get to the barber’s home until after that time.

An eyewitness, who testified last week in the case, said the shooting happened at approximately 6 p.m.

Escobar also questioned why Basaldua did not provide such a detailed explanation of Rebollar’s whereabouts to the Texas Rangers until a month later, even though the Rangers had gone to his home just a few days after the shooting on Nov. 8.

“In fact, 30 days later, on Dec. 6, after you met with counsel, you seem to remember extraordinary details,” Escobar said. “Isn’t that true?”

Basaldua explained that when the Rangers first came to his home, he did not understand why exactly they were there.

“That day that they arrived, I didn’t know what it was all about,” he said in Spanish via an interpreter. “They told us when they were leaving.”

Before Basaldua testified Tuesday, the defense also called on Basaldua’s mother, Norma Leticia Saenz.

Saenz said Rebollar and his then-girlfriend, Flor Perez, were both living in her home, as well as at least one other individual. However, she was out of town on the day of the incident and therefore couldn’t provide first-hand testimony of Rebollar’s whereabouts that day.

Another witness for the defense was a forensic science consultant, John Kilty, who served as a direct rebuttal to the testimony provided by the trace analyst who testified for the state last week.

Castro had testified that on three articles of clothing that purportedly belonged to Rebollar there were particles consistent with gunshot residue.

However, Kilty said that of the 38 particles found altogether on the clothes, it was odd that they all had the same chemical composition.

“My experience with gunshot residue is that particles of different composition are present in gunshot residue,” Kilty said, adding that he was surprised Castro hadn’t conducted further examinations.

“I’ve never seen a population of only one species of particles ever associated with gunshot residue,” Kilty reiterated, concluding that “there’s no (scientific) evidence that these particles are part of a population of gunshot residue.”

When Kilty was cross-examined by the state, he acknowledged that the chemical composition found in the samples — barium and aluminum — can be found in some primary gunshot residue mixture. He pointed out, however, that even Castro noted that those particles can be produced from environmental sources.

Before the defense began presenting their case Tuesday, the state rested their case just after calling their final two witnesses that morning.

One of them was Rebollar’s then-girlfriend, Flor Perez, who acknowledged she had been living with Rebollar at Basaldua’s mother’s home.

Perez agreed to testify in exchange for immunity because she was facing a tampering with evidence charge, though it’s unclear if the charge was related to this case.

Perez testified that on Nov. 6, 2016, the day of the incident, Rebollar was wearing a blue and white shirt, which is similar to the description of the shirt that the eyewitness provided and the shirt that investigators retrieved from the house.

She also testified that Rebollar left the house around 5 p.m. that day, but couldn’t remember when he returned. However, when Perez was prodded about what she had previously told an investigator, she acknowledged she had said Rebollar returned at 8 p.m.

However, on cross-examination, Flores — the defense attorney — asked Perez if she also recalled telling an investigator that she didn’t know where Rebollar was between 4 and 6 p.m.

She also later acknowledged that she said someone had left the house to pick up beer between 6:23 and 7:23 p.m.

“And you remember that specific time because that’s when you went in to bathe the baby right?” Flores asked. “And when you went in to bathe the baby, Mr. Rebollar was still there. Do you remember telling them that?”

“Yes,” Perez replied.

When the state prosecutor, Melisandra Mendoza, had a chance to question Perez again, she asked at what time Perez bathed her baby. Perez said it was about 7 p.m., but then said she didn’t really remember.

“It’s been three years, almost,” she said.

The trial is scheduled to resume Wednesday morning as the defense continues to present their case.