EDINBURG — The mother of a 19-year-old man accused of luring a 17-year-old Rio Grande City teen to his death more than two years ago told a jury Tuesday that her son was protecting his family.
“He took it because he was protecting his family,” Sandy Garcia, mother of Jose Luis Garcia Jr., said in response to a question from Starr County District Attorney Omar Escobar about why her son would have killed Chayse Olivarez.
Her son is charged with capital murder and tampering with evidence, including a human corpse.
Sandy Garcia is a defense witness who took the stand after the state rested Tuesday morning, making the stunning statement in the fifth day of testimony and evidence in her son’s trial.
Jose Luis Garcia Jr., who was arrested on the charges approximately two weeks after turning 17, stands accused of paying then 16-year-old Phillip Severa $10,000 to bring Chayse Olivarez to an abandoned property in Roma where the defendant allegedly shot him two to three times on July 30, 2017.
He is also accused of paying then 16-year-old Sebastian Torres $2,000 to pick up and dispose of bullet casings at the crime scene.
The Texas Rangers discovered Chayse Olivarez’s burned and dismembered body on Aug. 12, 2017, on that abandoned property in Roma — a day after Jose Garcia Luis Jr. walked them through the crime scene and lead them to where he disposed of the gun in the Rio Grande approximately five miles east of the crime scene.
That walk-through was video recorded and shown to the jury.
Testimony from Texas Ranger Eric Lopez revealed last week that Jose Luis Garcia Jr.’s father, Jose Luis Garcia Sr., and Chayse Olivarez’s father, Casimiro Olivarez Sr., are allegedly rival drug traffickers in Starr County.
Casmiro Olivarez Sr. is currently in federal lock up in Corpus Christi after reporting that he was robbed. Authorities discovered more than 1,000 rounds in his vehicle and arrested him for being a felon in possession of ammunition.
He is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday and has been subpoenaed to testify in the trial.
Jose Luis Garcia Jr.’s attorney, Ricardo L. Salinas, has repeatedly pointed out to the jury during cross examinations of several witnesses throughout the trial that Chayse Olivarez’s father was involved in drug trafficking.
Lopez, the Ranger, told Salinas that a man named Ignacio Garza, an apparent associate of Casimiro Olivarez Sr., was questioned in the deaths of Oneida Balderas Garza, 44, and Lourdes Elizondo, 33, who were found bound, naked and executed on March 23, 2016. That case remains unsolved.
Salinas has said he attempted to subpoena Garza to testify but the man is nowhere to be found.
On Tuesday, Sandy Garcia, the defendant’s mother, testified that she heard Casimiro Olivarez was inculpated in the shooting deaths of 3-year-old Julian, and his father, 41-year-old Hector Garcia on Nov. 6, 2016.
A man named Jesus Angel Rebollar was found guilty in that case in September and was sentenced to two life sentences.
Sandy Garcia testified her family was scared of Casimiro Olivarez Sr.’s because of rumors swirling in the community that he was connected to these violent cases and because she believed he was a drug trafficker.
Testimony has also included statements that Chayse Olivarez robbed Jose Luis Garcia Jr. at gunpoint over $67 worth of drugs and had threatened his life and that of his family’s through the phone application Kik.
Salinas, the defense attorney, has also suggested Chayse Olivarez also threatened Jose Luis Garcia Jr. on his birthday, July 26, 2017.
He disappeared four days later.
Sandy Garcia also testified that she did not tell her son to report the robbery and threats to the Rio Grande Police Department because she believes they have been infiltrated by Casimiro Olivarez Sr.
Testimony has also shown that Casimiro Olivarez Sr. knew where the crime scene was before that information was public and that Lopez, the Ranger, had to pull over and hide Jose Luis Garcia Jr. for his safety as they drove to the crime scene.
However, while on the stand Tuesday, Sandy Garcia in a stunning admission told the jury in response to a question from Escobar, the Starr County DA, that her son killed Chayse Olivarez to protect his family.
“You saw it on the video,” she said, referring to the hours-long interrogation of her son and of him walking police through the crime scene and leading them to the gun.