Visibly shaking and crying uncontrollably, Fernando Luna Rodriguez, older brother of former U.S. Border Patrol agent Joel Luna and his brother, Eduardo, took the stand Wednesday afternoon to testify against his brothers in their capital murder trial.
Fernando, who was given a plea deal in exchange for his testimony, was sobbing so hard that Cameron County Assistant District Attorney Gus Garza wanted him declared an adverse witness, which would have negated the deal he made for a much shorter sentence.
But after conferring with his attorney, Fernando gained his composure and proceeded to recall the day that he alleges his brother, Eduardo, shot and killed Jose Francisco Palacios Paz, a Honduran immigrant who worked at Eduardo’s tire shop.
Authorities believe Palacios Paz was killed at the shop in Edinburg, and that the Lunas and two others transported Palacios Paz’s remains to the Laguna Madre area, where they dumped his body into the waters in March 2015.
The brothers are facing charges of capital murder in connection with the death of Palacios Paz for retaliation, murder and engaging in organized criminal activity.
Garza showed a photo of Palacios Paz to Fernando and asked him what happened to that person.
“He died,” Fernando replied through his translator.
“Was it from natural causes?” Garza said, with Fernando testifying, “No, he was shot.”
Fernando described what transpired that day, on or about March 9 or 10, 2015. He and Palacios Paz were in the office of the tire shop, with Palacios Paz playing on his phone and both of them sitting and watching TV. According to Fernando, he was sitting only about three feet away from Palacios Paz when, around 7 p.m., Eduardo walked into the office and approached and shot Palacios Paz point-blank.
Garza re-enacted the event in front of the jury, posing himself as Palacios Paz, using the translator to act as Eduardo, and having Fernando show where he was in relation to where Palacios Paz had been sitting.
Fernando testified, “I heard a loud sound (the gunshot.) I turned around and Paz was bleeding.”
Fernando said Eduardo left the room, putting the gun in his pocket as he did so. Fernando was scared, so he got up and went to the parking lot. He testified that two other men went into the office, wrapped Palacios Paz’s body in a blanket, brought it out and put it in Eduardo’s truck, which Eduardo nicknamed “Pajaro.”
Earlier in his testimony, Fernando spoke about bringing between $250,000, a kilo of cocaine and a gun into the U.S. from Reynosa, Mexico, during a period of around a year, after having hidden it in his locker at work.
Testimony will resume today before Judge Benjamin Euresti Jr. of the 107th state District Court.