Forensics focus of testimony on 4th day of Starr murder trial

The trial of Jose Luis Garcia Jr., the man charged with capital murder in the 2017 death of Rio Grande City teenager Chayse Olivarez, continued briefly Friday with testimony that focused on the identification of Olivarez’s dismembered remains, found in body bags dumped in a Roma lagoon.

Dr. Fulgencio Salinas, a forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy of Olivarez’s remains, testified that the remains he examined were burned and irregularly severed when he examined them on Aug. 14, 2017.

Salinas said the remains came in three, black trash bags — in pieces that he seemed to have trouble identifying as images of them were shown on a large screen for the jury to see.

He determined the cause of death were two bullet wounds found on the skull, though he added there may have been a third bullet wound in the chest but said he could not be sure. He also said there was a chop wound found on the skull that could have been caused by a machete, an axe or anything with a fine point.

“Might be part of this dismemberment, I don’t know,” he said.

The jury also heard from Kenneth Haralson, an officer on the dive recovery team for the Texas Department of Public Safety, who talked about recovering a pistol from the Rio Grande. The pistol was then identified by the next witness, Roberto Garcia, as a gun he had sold to Jose Luis Garcia Sr., the defendant’s father.

Roberto Garcia, a Rio Grande City resident who said he was not related to the defendant or his family, said he recognized the gun by letters and a star that were engraved on it.

He said he purchased the gun in 2011 but sold it to Garcia Sr. around 2015 or 2016.

In a video of Garcia Jr.’s interview with the Texas Rangers, which was played for the jury Wednesday, he said he shot Olivarez two or three times.

Garcia Jr. is accused of killing Olivarez in July 2017 over anger that the victim had previously robbed him at gunpoint of four marijuana brownies and nine Xanax pills worth $67.

However, it was revealed there was already animosity between the families of the defendant and the victim.

Under questioning from Garcia Jr.’s attorney, Ricardo L. Salinas, Texas Ranger Eric Lopez said during Thursday’s testimony that Garcia Sr., and the victim’s father, Casimiro Olivarez Sr., are rival drug traffickers in Starr County.

State prosecutors allege Garcia Jr. orchestrated Olivarez’s death by paying then 16-year-old Phillip Selvera $10,000 to lure Olivarez to the Roma ranch and to dispose of the body, and by allegedly paying then 16-year-old Sebastian Torres $2,000 to pick up and dispose of bullet casings at the crime scene.

Because of scheduling conflicts for the jurors, the trial is not scheduled to resume until Tuesday morning.