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Witness alleges accused intended to kill others; 2013 murder trial enters second day

RPD officer Trong Nguyen testifies in Chaves County District Court before Judge Freddie J. Romero Tuesday while Gary Mitchell’s investigator, Bryce Perry, and client, Steve Gonzalez Guardado, observe from their seats. (Trevier Gonzalez Photo)

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The second day of a trial for a man who allegedly committed murder in 2013 to retaliate to a prior fatal shooting continued with eyewitness testimonies.

Eustacio Rios, of Chicago, Illinois, was the first to testify Tuesday morning the State of New Mexico v. Steve Guardado trial before District Judge Freddie J. Romero. According to court documents and his testimony, Rios saw the victim, 22-year-old Stoarmy Joel Vargas, get shot by Guardado on Oct. 25, 2013.

Referencing the earlier homicide of Victor Oaxaca on Oct. 23, 2013, Rios explained that he had traveled from Chicago to Roswell after he had learned of the death of his nephew, Oaxaca.

An aspect frequently visited by deputy district attorneys Michael Thomas and Kristen Cartwright, as well as Ruidoso defense attorney Gary Mitchell, was a get-together at the Oaxaca residence that Friday.

Rios said he couldn’t remember many of the people, aside from Vargas, Guardado and Adrian Barraza, at the property since he was unfamiliar with Roswell. He said he knew the three men through his late nephew.

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Rios told the jury that Stoarmy Vargas, Victor Oaxaca’s best friend, was greeted at the residence with “big hugs.”

Rios stated before the court that he was only able to stay for Oaxaca’s wake, as he and his family had to return home for work.

At the get-together, Rios said those in attendance were sitting, drinking and smoking weed.

Conversations from that night about exactly how Oaxaca died would have conflicting stories, whether, for example, he had gone outside Variety Liquor and Lounge alone or not. Rios said he focused on remembering the victim in a positive light.

At some point Friday night, Rios was told by Guardado, “Let’s go get a bottle,” as in alcohol. The two left in a black Chrysler with a star on the back.

After about five to 10 minutes, Rios said Guardado had a phone call and ended up parking on the side of a street.

Rios’ testimony was consistent with what he had told authorities when he was interviewed by Albert Aldana at the Aurora Police Department in Illinois.

“(Rios) said he heard a female voice coming from inside Stoarmy’s house,” a criminal complaint stated. “Stormy closes the door and they both began to talk. He said he was looking around and turned towards them when he heard cursing. He said that is when he saw Stoarmy get shot.”

Rios stated before members of the court that he did see Guardado with a gun.

“I thought everybody that was there was friends,” he said.

Rios said a lot was going through his head at the time.

When the two arrived at his family member’s house, Rios said Guardado told Victor Oaxaca Sr., “Ya quebre a uno, me faltan dos,” which translates to, “I took care of one, I need two more.”

Rios stated Guardado had also intended to kill Adrian.

When asked if he had any alcohol, Rios said, “We were all drinking.” Rios told prosecutors he considered himself intoxicated.

Rios also disclosed to the court he has had two prior convictions in court.

After Mitchell cited information from the FBI and questioned Rios if he was a member of the Latin Kings gang, he denied it.

The defense attorney also criticized how he never called 911 and the fact that he didn’t speak to authorities until several months had passed.

“My family was the one who decided we needed to do the right thing,” Rios replied.

Rios was later asked if he remembered seeing guns at the Oaxaca residence.

He said, “Everyone had guns,” as there had been hearsay about who killed Victor Oaxaca.

The defense’s questions continued, this time visually wearing on Rios.

Mitchell referenced the conversations at the get-together. Rios, frustrated, said he didn’t remember any names other than the ones he had already mentioned.

Rios also told the court he had heard only one gunshot.

Antonio Oaxaca, Victor’s brother, testified next.

Antonio Oaxaca reflected much of what had been said already as he answered questions from prosecutors. He, too, remembered trying to change the conversations at his parents’ home to a lighter subject at the get-together Friday.

Antonio Oaxaca stated he had met Guardado through his brother, but stated it wasn’t a strong friendship.

Antonio Oaxaca said, after the get-together, he went to Adrian Barraza’s house, although he was originally reluctant to name the person he visited. Rios, meanwhile, stayed at his parents’ house, according the testimony.

The defense pointed out his answer in court was inconsistent with what he had told police. He told law enforcement that he had left Adrian’s house to drive around town, Mitchell said.

Antonio Oaxaca was uncertain who had received the news of  Vargas’ death by phone, but stated it was not a good call.

“I didn’t know how to react to it, I guess I could say,” he said.

Antonio Oaxaca continually responded, “I don’t remember” to questions from the defense that pertained to him wearing a bulletproof vest Oct. 25, 2013.

Roswell Police Department officers Trong Nguyen and Christopher King also testified in court.

Nguyen said while he was unfamiliar with the area of the 600 block of East Cherry Street at the time, he remembers observing people on the south side, which included Lorenzo Prudencio, whom he described as “frantic.”

The officer stated he later grabbed crime-scene tape and secured the perimeter.

After the scene was secured, Nguyen said he spoke with neighbors.

King stated he was on scene for several hours blocking traffic at the corner of North Orchard Avenue and East Cherry Street.

Since King also was not the investigating officer, he was unable to testify to multiple specific questions.

However, King stated one vehicle had caught his attention, a black Chrysler. He recalled seeing it about three times.

King stated Guardado was driving the vehicle.

Mitchell went over the radio traffic he had with dispatch about the vehicle and focused on the incorrect license plate number he had provided.

Judge Romero then read a statement from Keith Pinckard of the Travis County Medical Examiner detailing the autopsy and toxicology report of Vargas.

Janet Borba also testified in court.

The woman identified Guardado, though he stated he was “really thin” in comparison to how she remembers him. They would often drink beer or tequila at her home, she said.

Borba said Guardado was intoxicated, as she recalls helping him up the stairs and making him soup Oct. 25, 2013.

Borba also stated Guardado might have mumbled that he shot the victim.

Mitchell questioned Borba if police had threatened to charge her with a felon in possession of firearm charge if she would not provide information after they had found a Winchester in her vehicle. She said, “Yeah, something like that.”

The statement of Guardado telling her he had shot the victim was mitigated by her testimony that she was hard of hearing and that Guardado was far away from her and highly intoxicated at the time.

Sgt. Albert Aldana of the Roswell Police Department was the last to testify Tuesday.

Aldana went through items of evidence, including the spent 9 mm bullet casing, and played parts of the interview he had with Guardado for the jury.

Within the interview, Guardado said he regarded Borba as his “mother-in-law.”

Guardado also used a profane word to describe his level of intoxication at the time of the incident.

Aldana was asked he if knew the manufacturer of the bullets, to which he replied no.

Afterwards, Mitchell asked if the evidence had been taken to a ballistics expert, which was again met with a no.

Mitchell then argued that even though the casing was a 9 mm, it was a same common brand and could not be proven to belong to his client.

Aldana’s testimony continues Wednesday morning.

Multimedia-crime reporter Trevier Gonzalez can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.

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