EDINBURG — A jury watched video Thursday afternoon of a sobbing and emotional Jill Rae-Paredes testify that her husband never meant to shoot and kill a man during an altercation authorities have described as a “road rage” murder.
“We weren’t trying to kill him,” Rae-Paredes said in the video recorded July 23. “We were just trying to get him away from us.”
The woman was unable to testify in person because she is ill with aggressive Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The testimony was the last defense attorney Terry Canales presented to the jury on behalf of Fabian Paredes, 33, who is charged with murder for killing 25-year-old Joshua David Sanchez on Oct. 9, 2017, at the intersection of McIntyre and 10th Streets outside of the Hidalgo County Courthouse.
Paredes has maintained he acted in self defense while Assistant District Attorney Roxanna Salinas said there is no evidence Sanchez ever had a weapon or placed Paredes and Rae-Paredes’ lives in danger.
While much of the evidence has presented snapshots of the five minutes starting from the Stripes at Business Highway 281 and Schunior Street to the intersection outside of the courthouse where Sanchez died through surveillance video and eyewitness testimony, Rae-Paredes’ testimony provided a play-by-play of that day from inside the vehicle driven by her husband.
Like Rhonda Ruiz, a motorist who was next to Paredes at the stoplight, Rae-Paredes said Sanchez tried to turn onto Business Highway 281, inching out into the road, but the couple wasn’t sure whether he wanted to take a left or a right because he wasn’t using a blinker and didn’t make eye contact with them.
Rae-Paredes, however, said traffic was bumper to bumper and there was no space for Sanchez to turn while Ruiz testified there was space.
According to Rae-Paredes, they didn’t think twice about driving past Sanchez and continued driving south on Business Highway 281, but soon noticed Sanchez screaming and “flipping everyone off” and honking the horn like he was just holding it down.
“And we were like, ‘OK, whatever crazy person,’ and we just kept on driving,” she said in the video.
As they were between Schunior and McIntyre, Rae-Paredes said Sanchez cut off cars in the left lane to get next to them and they realized his anger was directed at them when they saw he was flipping them off and had his windows rolled down.
At this point they became scared, Rae-Paredes said, explaining that they traveled to the courthouse thinking there would be an officer there they could wave down.
But it was a holiday.
When they turned right onto McIntyre from Business Highway 281, Rae-Paredes said they heard screeching tires and saw him stop in traffic to the right of their vehicle at the intersection of McIntyre and 10th.
Ruiz also testified she heard screeching tires.
Rae-Paredes said she rolled down the window to try and calm the man to tell him that Paredes is disabled and to leave them alone.
“And he’s like ‘I’m going to (expletive) kill you. You’re dead,’” Rae-Paredes said.
That’s when Rae-Paredes said Sanchez reached toward the passenger floor and she thought he had a gun and said as much.
“Then I heard a loud pop,” Rae-Paredes said.
Evidence and testimony presented during the trial showed a cellphone was found on the passenger floorboard of Sanchez’s vehicle and the trajectory of the fatal bullet appears as if it passed through the man’s body as he reached toward the passenger floorboard.
After firing, Paredes took a left and Rae-Paredes said they saw Sanchez’s car go straight through the intersection. What they didn’t see was that Sanchez’s car crossed the intersection and crashed.
“We saw him go straight and that’s why we continued to drive,” she said. “We thought he was coming after us.”
She testified they never knew Sanchez died until they were arrested on Oct. 11, 2017, for what they first thought was being involved in a hit-and-run accident, until investigators told them they were investigating a homicide.
Rae-Paredes also testified they immediately went to their home, switched vehicles and traveled to a hotel they frequent on South Padre Island because they thought the man may still be following them.
That’s an explanation Salinas, the assistant district attorney, has problems with.
A search of their cellphones revealed that within 20 minutes a phone call was made to a law firm specializing in representing people with concealed carry permits.
Shortly after, web browser search history showed they searched for hotels, flights and rental cars.
Canales, who seemed to have an explanation for all of the state’s accusations, pointed out that popular travel sites like Expedia, always bring up bundles during searches for hotels.
However, one point that seemed impossible to explain away came from Homeland Security Investigations special agent Joseph Mirino, a computer specialist.
Paredes’ vehicle was equipped with a dash cam. When the Edinburg Police Department recovered that dash cam and turned it over to Mirino, the special agent didn’t find what he expected.
“It was odd,” he said.
Mirino testified that all the video on the dash cam had been deleted and when he used software to retrieve the files, the portion fitting into the timeline when the shooting would have occurred was missing.
And there’s only one explanation for that, Mirino said.
Someone unplugged the dash cam from its power source during the time of the shooting.
Closing arguments are expected Friday, followed by jury deliberations.