One of the attorneys for 19-year-old Rio Grande City resident Jose Luis Garcia Jr. confirmed the judge presiding over his trial issued a direct verdict Wednesday afternoon on the charge of capital murder.
Jose Luis Garcia Jr. is accused of paying then 16-year-old Phillip Severa $10,000 to lure 17-year-old Chayse Olivarez to an abandoned property in Roma where the man confessed to shooting the teen two to three times.
Defense attorney O. Rene Flores confirmed visiting state District Judge Rogelio Valdez issued the direct verdict after both the state and defense closed their cases.
A direct verdict means the state failed to prove the elements of the charge.
In this case, the state charged Jose Luis Garcia Jr. with capital murder over allegations he paid Severa to bring Chayse Olivarez to the property.
No evidence, outside of Jose Luis Garcia Jr.’s videotaped confession, has been introduced showing he actually paid Severa $10,000.
Not a single witness testified that the money was ever recovered and no photos of the cash have been introduced as evidence.
The Rio Grande City man is still charged with two counts of tampering with evidence, including a human corpse.
KRGV reports the man is still facing a murder charge.
The development follows six days of evidence and testimony that included a video-taped confession and walk-through of the crime scene where Jose Luis Garcia Jr. gave Texas Ranger Eric Lopez a play-by-play of that fateful day and lead investigators to a spot on the Rio Grande 5 miles east of the crime scene where he said he threw the gun used in the murder into the river.
A ballistics expert with the Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Lab in Weslaco testified he determined the weapon was the same weapon used to shoot Chayse Olivarez.
Testimony throughout the trial has indicated that Jose Luis Garcia Jr. was afraid of Chayse Olivarez due to numerous threats the teen made toward his life and that of his family’s through the phone application Kik, though those messages have not been introduced at trial as evidence.
The defense has painted Chayse Olivarez’s father, Casimiro Olivarez Sr., as a drug trafficker who infiltrated the Rio Grande City Police Department and even the Starr County District Attorney’s Office, though no evidence has been introduced that this is true.
However, Lopez, the Ranger, testified that Casimiro Olivarez Sr. and Jose Luis Garcia Jr.’s father, Jose Luis Garcia Sr., are rival drug traffickers in Starr County.
There has also been testimony that rumors of an associate of Casimiro Olivarez Sr.’s, Ignacio Garza, was questioned in a high-profile, unsolved double homicide in Starr County.
Lopez said Garza was questioned in the deaths of Oneida Balderas Garza, 44, and Lourdes Elizondo, 33, who were found bound, naked and executed on March 23, 2016.
Ricardo L. Salinas, one of Jose Luis Garcia Jr.’s attorneys, said he attempted to subpoena Garza to testify but the man is nowhere to be found.
On Tuesday, Sandy Garcia, the defendant’s mother, testified that she heard Casimiro Olivarez was inculpated in the shooting deaths of 3-year-old Julian, and his father, 41-year-old Hector Garcia, on Nov. 6, 2016.
She told the jury she was afraid of Casimiro Olivarez and his family.
A man named Jesus Angel Rebollar was found guilty in that case in September and was sentenced to two life sentences.
Testimony on Wednesday revealed that Jose Luis Garcia Jr. believed that Casimiro Olivarez was a member of the Texas Chicano Brotherhood, a prison gang. Rebollar made numerous posts on social media claiming affiliation with that same gang.
The jury returns for final arguments followed by the jury charge and then deliberations at 9 a.m. Thursday.