Murder suspect who’s waited 5 years for trial must wait longer

EDINBURG — A convicted kidnapper from Camargo who has waited more than five years for his day in court on double homicide accusations has had his case continued for the 22nd time.

Martin Margarito, 32, is charged with one count of capital murder of multiple persons and two counts of capital murder for the shooting deaths of Victor Manuel Garcia and Elia Margarita on Oct. 29, 2014.

He has entered not guilty pleas and during a court hearing Friday afternoon over an attempt by his defense attorneys, Andres A. Ramos and Alejandro Alex Ballesteros, to have the indictment tossed over what they characterize as a speedy trial violation, Margarito said he was innocent.

“I would like to finish with this because basically they are accusing me of something I didn’t do,” Margarito said.

Margarito testified about the anxiety the continued delays in his case have had on him as part of his attorneys’ strategy to have the case dismissed, a motion visiting senior state District Judge Manuel Bañales denied.

That motion followed a Monday hearing where Bañales granted a motion filed by Assistant District Attorney Lauren Sepulveda asking for another continuance, which both Ramos and Ballesteros objected to.

The defense attorneys have repeatedly announced ready for trial over the last six months.

Last August, they announced ready for trial but Sepulveda asked for a continuance because law enforcement personnel from multiple agencies who are witnesses in the case were scheduled to testify in a federal public corruption case that was scheduled the same time as Margarito’s trial.

State District Judge Ramon Garcia granted the request before he moved the case to Bañales because the trial is estimated to last between four and six weeks.

That latest reason for the continuance is because the state’s only eye witness to the kidnapping is pregnant and her doctor will not clear her for travel.

She lives in the northeastern United States.

The delay is a cause of concern for Margarito’s attorneys in more ways than one.

While their motion to dismiss was based on speedy trial rules, another concern is a possibly exculpatory witness who is waiting to be deported.

That man is 22-year-old Silvestre Gomez Lopez, who served five years in prison on two charges of aggravated kidnapping.

He was charged along with Margarito, who ended up being prosecuted on federal charges instead of the state charges.

Margarito is serving a 40-year prison sentence on those charges.

Lopez, however, is done with his sentence yet he is being held in the Hidalgo County jail without any charges because the state has a bench warrant for his testimony.

Lopez is a Mexican citizen with an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement hold.

A December letter he sent to the court revealed he did not know why he was being held in the Hidalgo County jail.

During the Friday court hearing, the attorneys revealed he has retained Sonny Palacios for representation and will be filing a petition to get out of jail and begin the deportation process so he can go home to his family in Mexico.

The hearing also revealed another new detail, there’s another possible suspect in the killings, Jose Guadalupe Castellano, who committed suicide.

His DNA was found from blood on zip ties used on the victims.

Margarito, who suffers from health problems, will remain in county jail pending his trial in October.