Appeals court affirms man’s murder conviction, life sentence

Adalberto Mosqueda Guajardo claimed photos of his victim’s lifeless body shown to a jury in 2017 were inflammatory, creating an unfair trial.

The 13th Court of Appeals disagreed.

The appeals court affirmed the 40-year-old’s conviction and sentence of life without parole last week.

A jury convicted Guajardo in less than four hours more than two years ago for his role in the 2016 kidnapping and shooting death of 44-year-old Progreso resident Gilberto Garces over a $40,000 drug debt.

In addition to arguing that “post-mortem” photos of Garces inflamed the jury against him, Guajardo also claimed his constitutional right to a speedy trial was violated and the verdict was contrary to the law and evidence.

The killing happened April 6, 2016, when Garces went to the Mid-Valley Tire Shop in Mercedes to get money.

“He told (his wife) he would call her back in fifteen minutes and the two would meet at a nearby HEB store, but Garces never called her back, and he did not answer her calls,” the ruling says. “Garces’s widow called police and filed a missing person report the next day.”

Garces’ son testified during the trial that 48-year-old Ramiro Garcia Lopez Jr., the owner of the tire shop, owed Garces nearly $40,000.

The tire shop owner is in federal custody and has entered a not guilty plea to a charge of capital murder in state district court.

Authorities discovered Garces’ body on April 7, 2016, south of Expressway 83 by a levee.

“Garces’s body was found with an electrical wire wrapped around his wrists,” the ruling stated. “Investigators determined that the wire had a number which corresponded to a certain brand of drill set.”

Investigators discovered that wire likely came from the tire shop, where authorities also found latex gloves, a pistol and several magazines.

“Police also found a drill set matching the electrical cord found wrapped around Garces’s wrists,” the ruling stated. “Although several other drill sets were found at the tire shop, this was the only one missing its charging cable.”

A forensic pathologist determined that Garces was shot several times in his head, chest and hand and had suffered blunt force trauma.

“Nineteen photographs depicting Garces’s body as it appeared during the post-mortem examination were entered into evidence over defense counsel objection,” according to the ruling.

Guajardo told investigators after his arrest that Garces had showed up to the tire shop that day asking for money and made him angry.

“At that moment Mauricio asked Garces who they were going to pick up, if me or Ramiro,” the ruling stated, quoting Guajardo’s statement. “That made me really mad and I hit Garces a few times, knocking him down to the floor.”

Guajardo was referring to La Feria resident Mauricio Vidal, who escaped from authorities after a traffic stop in January 2018 and remains on the run.

The men knocked Garces unconscious and put him in Guajardo’s car and were driving to Mexico when Garces woke up and began fighting the men.

“During that fight there was a shot that broke the rear passenger side window near the lev[ee],” the ruling quoted Guajardo as saying. “I don’t know if it hit Garces or not because I didn’t see blood and Garces and the man kept fighting.”

The men were down near the river when Vidal and a man named Sergio Medrano Cavazos took Garces out of the vehicle and shot him, according to Guajardo’s statement.

Cavazos is also a fugitive.

The appeals court in its ruling said Guajardo’s speedy trial claim lacked merit and he was correctly convicted under the law of parties, which holds all members who participated in a crime equally guilty for that crime.

As for the photos, Garces claimed they were “gruesome and inflammatory.”

“The nineteen color photographs admitted during the pathologist’s testimony did not depict Garces’s body after the autopsy; instead, they depicted his body as he arrived at the pathologists office, before the autopsy was performed,” the ruling stated. “In that regard, to the extent the photographs were gruesome, that was only because they showed the results of the attack committed by appellant and his co-conspirators.”