Self defense or murder?
If you ask 33-year-old Fabian Paredes, he’ll say he feared for his life after refusing to allow 27-year-old Joshua David Sanchez to turn right onto Business Highway 281 in front of him as the man tried to leave a Stripes store on Oct. 9, 2017.
Paredes’ lead defense attorney, Terry Canales, said during opening arguments in his client’s murder trial that Paredes feared for his life and the life of his wife, Jill Rae Hanson-Paredes, as Sanchez followed him for five minutes before terror overwhelmed Paredes, leading him to fire a single fatal shot at Sanchez, killing the man.
The Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office, however, disputes Paredes’ narrative.
Assistant District Attorney Roxanna Salinas said during opening arguments that no evidence exists proving that Paredes ever feared for his life or that his life was ever in danger.
There’s no evidence that Sanchez had a gun or displayed a gun, Salinas said, adding that at most, the two exchanged words with each other during bumper-to-bumper traffic when Paredes refused to allow Sanchez to turn right, even though Sanchez was inching into an open space between vehicles on Business 281 that fateful afternoon.
And an exchange of words is not reason to shoot someone.
“That is simply not enough to justify self defense in this case,” Salinas told the jury.
Canales, however, called Salinas’ version a “pleasant rendition,” telling the jury he would not “candy coat” the day those two lives collided: one man dead and another charged with murder.
The defense attorney told the jury that Sanchez followed Paredes’ car so closely that the man couldn’t see Sanchez’s license plates, but did see the victim yelling at him through his rear view mirror.
Paredes tried to get away, Canales said, but Sanchez followed and by the time the two reached the intersection of 10th and McIntyre streets, Sanchez pulled up next to Paredes.
“It’s at this point the terror sets in,” Canales said.
Paredes claims he rolled down his window to try to calm the situation and Sanchez threatened to kill him and leaned over to his passenger seat to grab a weapon, with Paredes’ wife sandwiched between him and Sanchez in the passenger seat, according to the defense attorney.
“She yells, ‘He’s got a gun. He’s got a gun. He’s got a gun,’” Canales said.
Then Paredes shoots and takes a left on 10th as moments later Sanchez drives through the light, crashing into a tree before he died.
Tamara Rodriguez, a civil attorney with a law office at the intersection, was on the phone talking to a client that day as a man she later learned was Sanchez pulled up and stopped on McIntyre right in front of her window.
“And I heard a gunshot. I saw a person in the car. I saw his head go back. I saw blood come out of his mouth forcefully,” Rodriguez said from the stand. “I saw a look of confusion on his face. Then I saw a look of fear. He was terrified.”
She added that the most confusing thing about the scene that unfolded outside her window is that the man drove off after being shot.
Rodriguez, however, never saw Paredes and said Sanchez was looking straight ahead at the light, as if he were waiting for it to change. She testified she never saw him yelling at anyone, and his hands looked as if they were on the wheel, like any other driver.
That is until she heard the shot and saw the man’s head go back.
Testimony Wednesday showed how Edinburg firefighters immediately responded to the scene and the city’s police officers arrived moments later.
The intersection at 10th and McIntyre changed from a car crash to a possible suicide to a homicide all in a matter of minutes.
But Paredes and his wife were missing from the scene of the shooting. In fact, at some point, Canales said they went to South Padre Island, which they frequented because of Paredes’ ill health.
The defense attorney claims Paredes never saw the crash and thought he only fired a warning shot, not realizing in that moment that the man who followed him from the Stripes to the courthouse had died of a single gunshot wound.
Meanwhile, Edinburg police officers used surveillance footage from multiple locations to piece together what happened that day, eventually identifying the vehicle and its driver: Paredes.
By approximately 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 11, 2017, undercover investigators had staked out Paredes’ apartment as two officers approached and rang its doorbell two to three times.
No one answered. The officers left.
However, moments later, the undercover investigators outside saw the garage to the apartment open and watched as a black Camaro backed out and left the residence.
In unmarked cars, they followed until a marked patrol unit was able to make a traffic stop at about 8 p.m.
Paredes and his wife were in the vehicle, where authorities found two black bags that appeared to be stuffed with clothing.
After approximately 48 hours following the shooting, Edinburg police officers took both Paredes and his wife into custody and charged the pair with murder.
The investigation, however, was far from over and on Thursday, testimony is scheduled to continue in the case and could shine more light on what authorities found after taking the two into custody.