State, defense rest cases in Uvalle murder trial

Interrogation video played for jurors

EDINBURG — Issues with evidence in the murder trial of Peter Uvalle continued to slow down testimony Monday.

But despite continued delays in testimony, jurors finally heard from Uvalle.

Jurors were shown police investigators interrogating Uvalle 12 hours after the shooting while he was in a hospital bed.

The video footage, roughly 35 minutes long, depicted a recently injured Uvalle being interrogated by two Pharr police investigators, one of whom was an oft-maligned former police investigator named Enrique Ontiveros.

But mostly the footage likely bolstered the state’s case, as Uvalle on several occasions can be heard contradicting himself and lying about the events of the shooting that left Jonathan Joseph Alcala dead.

Before jurors could be let in to continue hearing testimony from the state, an issue related to evidence that was set to be admitted Monday stalled the trial for hours as the state had to omit portions of video footage set to be entered into evidence.

Uvalle is accused of shooting and killing Alcala at about 1:30 a.m. Dec. 15, 2017, over what the state claims was a disagreement over Xanax pills.

Through four days of testimony, the state has focused its questions on police officers, dispatchers, and those who were at the scene of the shooting that resulted in Alcala’s death.

They also called Alcala’s good friend and neighbor, Santiago Aguirre, who shot back at Uvalle and Uvalle’s cousin, Omar Garcia, who was driving the GMC pickup truck that Aguirre shot at that day.

The state, represented by Hidalgo County Assistant District Attorneys Vance W. Gonzales and Ben A. Abila, were set to call former Pharr police investigator Enrique Ontiveros to the stand but the delay prevented his testimony from being heard until after the lunch break.

Ontiveros has come up in hearings prior to the trial’s commencement.

His testimony in the state’s case unsurprisingly resulted in the defense, represented by Savannah Gonzalez and Lucia “Lucy” Regalado, bringing up Ontiveros checkered past — specifically misconduct on his part that led to his termination with Pharr police.

The defense underscored Ontiveros’ misconduct to show, as they have attempted to establish prior to his testimony, the total incompetence by Pharr police during the course of the investigation into Uvalle.

Through the trial the defense has underscored other issues with the investigation, including crime scenes not being sealed off, people walking through the crime scene, and issues with the handling of evidence as underscored by the discovery of Uvalle’s phone during the actual trial.

The disruption caused by the unexpected discovery of evidence during Wednesday and Friday’s testimony carried over into Monday as the court sought to move things along.

Finally, after jurors were sent home for lunch without hearing testimony, the state called Ontiveros and the testimony got underway.

The state focused its line of questioning to the interrogation of Uvalle after the shooting.

The state played for jurors video footage of the aforementioned interrogation which took place at about 1:45 p.m., Dec. 15, 2017 — roughly 12 hours after the shooting.

The footage represents the state’s most convincing argument and evidence that Uvalle shot at Alcala as part of a drug deal in which he claims he was ripped off by Alcala.

Uvalle contradicts himself when he states he shot Alcala because he saw him with a gun, then later in the video he claims he saw Alcala’s friend, presumably Santiago Aguirre, holding a shotgun, accounting why he pointed a gun at him.

During the interrogation, which lasted less than 40 minutes, Ontiveros and another investigator continually asked Uvalle, who was propped up in a hospital bed at the time, to restate the facts as he remembered them.

Jurors followed along the more than 30-minute video with a transcript provided by the state.

Defense pushed Ontiveros to answer why certain evidence, specially the handgun they believed was used to shoot and kill Alcala, wasn’t tested.Ontiveros testified about several “oversights,” with regard to evidence and the investigation.

After Ontiveros, the state rested its case in chief. The defense is expected to call at least two witnesses Tuesday with closing arguments potentially being heard before the end of the day.

Before the trial was called to recess, the defense called a certified interpreter to testify to audio and video recordings of Alcala rapping, and one of him cocking a shotgun.

The defense also called their own private investigator to testify to the evidence issues in the case, and rested its case late Monday evening.