Witness in Edinburg massacre
Dec. 11, 2004
The only man to escape the 2003
massacre that left 6 others dead refused to
testify on Friday in the trial of Juan Raul Navarro Ramirez, one
of 11 suspected Tri-City Bombers gang
members charged with capital murder.
after the slayings, Juan Delgado Villa, 35, told Edinburg police
he dove through the window of the small
house at 2515 E. Monte Cristo Road and ran,
leaving behind his cousins and childhood friends as rounds of
gunshots ensued. Arrested 2 days after the murders on Jan.
7, 2003, for being in the country illegally,
Villa was transferred from federal custody
to Hidalgo County Jail under a subpoena to testify in Ramirezs
Ramirez, 20, is the youngest defendant charged
with the murders of rival gang members
during a drug and weapons raid and the 1st to stand trial for
those murders. He pleaded innocent to the charges.
Though Ramirez has not been identified as a
shooter, Hidalgo County prosecutors are
seeking the death penalty under the law of parties, which
allows for a person to face the punishment if he or she
conspires with others to commit a criminal
act that ends in a slaying.
Multiple gunshots killed Jimmy Edward
Almendariz, 22; brothers Jerry Eugene
Hidalgo, 24, and Ray Hidalgo, 30; half brothers Juan Delgado Jr.,
32, and Juan Delgado III, 20; and Ruben Rolando Castillo,
Police found five of the bodies in or around
the smaller of 2 houses on the property,
where Villa had also been present. In the larger home, the
assailants left Rosie Gutierrez - the mother of the Hidalgo
brothers - alive, tied to her bed with an
extension cord near her slain son Jerry
Hidalgo. Gutierrez was publicly thought to be the lone survivor
until a police detectives testimony during
Ramirezs trial revealed Villas escape.
Earlier Friday, jurors heard Gutierrezs muffled
9-1-1 call in which she told a dispatcher
that masked men had entered her home and shot her son.
She told the dispatcher she did not see how many men there
were or who had been killed, only that they
were armed with semiautomatic rifles. Jurors
heard Gutierrez scream and cry when she untied herself and
saw her sons body.
Brought into Judge Noe Gonzalezs 370 th state
District Court handcuffed, shackled and
wearing an orange jumpsuit, Villa said he did not want to
answer the prosecutions questions. Gonzalez excused the
jury and appointed Edinburg attorney Roel
Esquivel to advise Villa of his rights.
"You do not have a right not to testify if you
are subpoenaed," the judge told Villa,
explaining the constitutional Fifth Amendment did protect him
from answering questions that would incriminate him in
illegal activity. He also told Villa not to
tell the jury his reasons for not answering the
Esquivel said Villa felt he had nothing to
offer the case, and did not want to testify
out of concern for his health and his family.
"My life is in danger every day," Villa told
the court. "I dont want any publicity. I
dont want to be in front of a jury.
"If I have to do more time, Ive already done
In front of the jury, prosecutor Cregg Thompson
asked Villa if he had been present in the
home when the shooting occurred and if he heard gunshots
when Ruben Castillo was shot outside.
"You ran when you heard someone tell (Castillo)
to get on the ground. You never saw them
push in the door? You didnt see him get shot in the back,
butt and legs as he knelt in front of the couch you were
sleeping on?" Thompson asked.
To each question Villa responded, "I dont want
Villa also would not respond to defense
attorney Alma Garza. She alleged that Villa
had asked a friend for a bulletproof vest the morning of Jan. 4
and that he had purchased two other bulletproof vests
months earlier. She also alleged that
before the murders, Villa took the girlfriend of one of
the alleged assailants to the house where the men were
killed and showed her marijuana. Garza also
said Villa had spent time with the woman
"You told (the woman) that you were afraid they
were going to pin everything on you, didnt
you?" she asked.
Villa would also not respond when asked if he
told a friend that he had had a gun and
fired back at the shooters.
For refusing to cooperate with the attorneys,
prosecutors asked Gonzalez to hold Villa in
contempt, which could carry additional jail time, though
Gonzalez did not rule on the matter Friday.
Graciela Delgado, the mother of the Delgado
brothers, testified that Villa had been a
good friend of her stepson Juan Delgado Jr., but that the two
had not been getting along for nearly a month before he
died. She told prosecutor Joseph Orendain
that Juan Delgado Jr. had lived with Villas
mother, but right before his death he had moved in with Ray
Hidalgo in the home where they were both
killed. She spoke in Spanish and an interpreter
translated her statements to the court.
When questioned by the defense, Graciela
Delgado said that she visited with Rosie
Gutierrez after their sons were killed and that Gutierrez acted
like "nothing had happened" and that she did not believe
Rosie Gutierrezs account of the killings.
Edinburg Police Det. Daniel Ochoa then
testified that he had re-enacted Villas
escape through the window to verify his story.
Ochoa told jurors how police found and arrested
Ramirezs co-defendants Humberto "Gallo"
Garza, 30; Marcial Mata Bocanegra, 27; Roberto "Robbie "
Cantu, 25; Reymundo "Kito" Sauceda, 29; and Jorge Norberto
"Choche" Martinez, 39.
Their statements then lead law enforcement to
Ramirez, who was found and arrested at his
aunts home in Hargill on Jan. 29, 2003.
Ramirezs trial will resume Monday. Nine others
are in Hidalgo County Jail, awaiting trail
for the same charges. Edinburg police are still searching
for Juan Miguel "Perro " Nuez, 29.
Robert "Bones" Gene Garza, 21, of Pharr is also
charged in the Monte Cristo killings. Last
December, a jury found him guilty in connection with
the shooting death of 4 Donna women in 2002. That crime has
also been linked to several alleged members
of the Tri-City Bombers gang.