Finger-pointing in Arivaca murders
By Scott North, Everett (Wash.) Herald Writer
Published: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 12:11 PM MST
There is “little doubt” border-watch activist Shawna Forde was involved in the May 30 killings of an Arivaca man and his daughter, attorneys for one of her co-defendants are now alleging in court papers.
Meanwhile, court documents show an Arivaca man who claims he was involved in planning for the home invasion but was too drunk to participate, told prosecutors that Forde later described for him how the raid ended in death and a gun battle with the lone surviving victim.
The details are contained in dozens of pages of court papers filed Feb. 9 in Pima County Superior Court in Tucson.
Attorneys Jack L. Landsdale Jr., and Steven D. West represent Albert Gaxiola. Along with Forde, 42, and Jason Bush, 35, Gaxiola, 42, is charged with first-degree murder and other crimes.
The charges all stem from the night Raul “Junior” Flores, 29, and his 9-year-old daughter, Brisenia, were killed. The child’s mother also was shot three times but managed to drive away the attackers in a gun battle that was recorded while she spoke with a 911 emergency dispatcher.
Gaxiola’s attorneys have asked a judge to reconsider a December ruling that cleared the way for prosecutors to seek the death penalty for the trio. They say Gaxiola’s case must be considered separately because he wasn’t in the home at the time of the killings, and “is clearly and unequivocally in a separate and distinct situation than are Shawna Forde and Jason Bush.”
Arizona authorities contend the group robbed the Flores home looking for drugs and money. They accuse Forde and Bush of being the pair who dressed in camouflage uniforms and got inside posing as law enforcement officers.
“There is no question that Jason Bush was the person who actually shot both of the victims and there is little doubt that he was accompanied by Shawna Forde, when the home of the Flores family was invaded,” Gaxiola’s attorneys said in court papers.
Forde has denied any involvement. Her lawyer also has said there is no evidence against her.
Jewelry believed taken during the raid was found in Forde’s purse, inside her car, when she was arrested June 12, according to court papers. Meanwhile, prosecutors say Bush has given a statement detailing what happened.
One robber bled after being shot during the raid. Genetic tests have linked the blood to Bush, prosecutors allege.
Within hours of the raid, Forde sought help from other border-watch activists for a gunshot wound to Bush’s leg.
The court papers filed by Gaxiola’s lawyers contain excerpts from a statement given by Oin Oakstar, also of Arivaca. He’s told prosecutors he was in on planning for the raid, but didn’t participate.
The hulking ex-con reached a plea agreement in the case. He promised to testify and received probation for a weapons possession charge.
Oakstar was arrested within hours of the Flores killings after people in Arivaca directed suspicion his way.
In a Sept. 25 statement to prosecutors, Oakstar said his arrest came as he was walking home from a post-raid meeting in Gaxiola’s house with Forde and Bush. He said he gave Bush pain pills and was nervous because Bush kept one of his hands hidden under a blanket.
Oakstar said he had only just met the pair, but at Gaxiola’s urging had earlier drove them past the Flores home on a scouting trip.
Oakstar reportedly told police there had been some talk about using force to eliminate Raul Flores as a threat during the holdup, including use of a sniper, but there was no plan to harm the man’s family.
In court papers, Gaxiola’s lawyers argued that the Oakstar statement suggests what happened to the Flores family was not of Gaxiola’s making and he should not be at risk of death for alleged actions by Bush and Forde.
Oakstar told prosecutors that first Bush, then Forde, recounted what happened during the raid:
“I was standing in the doorway of the bedroom when she came in and I kinda put my back to the wall ’cause I was still keeping an eye on Jason’s hand that he had under the blanket. And she came around and was standing to my right and she started to explain that things had gone to (expletive), that it didn’t work out, that, um, they had gotten in a shoot-out, and that Junior was dead, that his daughter was dead, but his wife was still alive.”
Oakstar said he told Forde and Bush that they had “messed up,” that “you can’t shoot women and kids.” He said Forde and Bush told him “it just happened that way.”
According to court papers, Raul Flores was shot six times, with bullets striking his head, chest and right arm. Brisenia Flores was shot twice in the face, including one shot fired so close the gun’s barrel touched her cheek.