3rd defendant in Arivaca double-murder case avoids death row
Albert Gaxiola will not be joining Shawna Forde and Jason Bush on death row for his involvement in the May 2009 death of Raul Junior Flores, but the jury could not reach a unanimous decision as to the death of 9-year-old Brisensia Flores.
The Pima County Attorney’s Office must now decide whether they want to empanel a new jury to comtemplate a possible death sentence for Brisenia’s death or let Pima County Superior Court Judge John Leonardo sentence Gaxiola to life with or without the possibility of release.
The jury deliberated around 11 hours before sentencing Gaxiola to life in prison for Junior Flores’ death, but were at a stalemate as to the sentence pertaining to Brisenia.
Gaxiola is also facing additional time for the attempted first-degree murder of Flores’ wife, Gina Gonzalez, and a variety of other charges.
Deputy Pima County Attorney Rick Unklesbay told the jurors it was Gaxiola who suggested Forde and Bush ought to rob and kill Flores. Gaxiola wanted Flores dead because he was a rival drug smuggler and Forde needed money to fund her Minuteman organization, Unklesbay said.
“Without ( Gaxiola), Junior doesn’t become a target. Without him, Brisenia doesn’t die,” Unklesbay said.
Gaxiola knew Flores’ wife and children were probably home that night, and he didn’t care, Unklesbay said.
Unklesbay told the jurors that once Gaxiola became an adult he had to make a choice between leading a law-abiding life or becoming a criminal and he choice the latter, despite spending 15 years with an aunt and uncle who nurtured him and taught him to be respectful, responsible and hard-working.
Forde, 43, and Bush, 36, were convicted and sentenced earlier this year. Bush was given an extra 78 years on the additional charges; Forde received an extra 65 years.
Prosecutors argued for lethal injection because of Brisenia Flores’ age, the fact more than one murder and serious crime was committed during the same event, and the motive was monetary.
Unklesbay and fellow prosecutor Kellie Johnson presented evidence the trio began talking about their next target within hours of Flores’ death.
I’m not a big fan of the death penalty, but I’m not sorry the first two defendants were sentenced to death. One of the ‘mitigating factors’ presented to spare Gaxiola’s life is that in the past, he has been well behaved during his various jail terms. Now we get to see how long he can keep that up, unless they decide to give another jury a chance to sentence him for Brisenia’s death.