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Victoria man accused of allegedly trying to kill his ex-girlfriend and baby son

By Gheni_Platenburg
June 22, 2010 at 1:22 a.m.


NEXT HEARING

The trial will resume at 9 a.m., Wednesday in District Judge Stephen Williams' courtroom.

A Victoria man charged with trying to kill his ex-girlfriend and their baby went on trial Tuesday.

Armando Tijerina, 45, is charged with attempted capital murder, arson and burglary.

He is charged with building and planting an explosive device with an electrical timer in the home of Victoria resident Vanessa Middaugh, 29, who is Tijerina's ex-girlfriend on May 9, 2009.

Tijerina planted the device with the intent to kill Middaugh and their infant son in an effort to avoid making child support payments, according to court documents.

Middaugh testified that after returning home from an out-of-town trip, she and her stepfather, Alfred Pernitza Jr., discovered the device in a spare bedroom. They were trying to figure out a problem with an electrical breaker.

"I figured something had to be plugged in that was overloading it," said Pernitza.

Both testified they found several empty water bottles and Gain laundry detergent bottles that were filled with flammable liquids, later identified as gasoline. One of the bottles was connected to a timer that had been plugged into an electrical socket and set for 11:30 p.m.

Additionally, the two said they found newspaper and charcoal briquettes stuffed underneath a bed in the room.

From the placement of the items, Middaugh said she knew they had been placed there with ill intentions.

"By seeing the stuff inside the house and how close it was to my son's room," she said she knew the intent.

"If it would have went off, it would have been a big explosion," said Pernitza.

Pernitza also said the close proximity of his daughter's house to him and his wife's house potentially put them in danger, too.

"I believe my wife and I probably wouldn't be here today either," he said.

During the trial, jurors were shown fingerprints taken from bottles at the home and viewed video showing Tijerina purchasing timers from a Victoria store that were identical to the one found in Middaugh's house.

Jurors also began listening to an audio recording of an interview Victoria County Sheriff's Office investigators conducted with Tijerina.

They are expected to continue listening to the audio when the trial resumes Wednesday morning.

Investigators said Tijerina responded with a "vague stare" when told about photos taken from the video footage in the store.

District Attorney Steve Tyler and Assistant District Attorney Eli Garza represented the state, while Dexter Eaves represented Tijerina.

HOW IT ALL BEGAN

The ex-lovers met when they both worked for a local plant. Middaugh worked as a security guard, while Tijerina worked as a hazardous materials supervisor.

Although Tijerina was married with another son at the time, the two dated on and off for around four years until Middaugh became pregnant.

"I never wanted to marry him," said Middaugh. "At the time I was pregnant and wanted to have a father figure for my kid."

When Eaves asked Middaugh whether abortion had been discussed, she said Tijerina told her "No, I'd rather you not."

However, she did not know the reasons behind his decision.

Sometime after becoming pregnant, Middaugh said she told Tijerina's wife about their affair.

"I wanted to let her know he was cheating on her," said Middaugh. "She needed to know."

While testifying, Midduagh admitted she was initially unsure who was the father of her son.

Tijerina was scheduled for a paternity test on May 11, 2009, two days after the incident occurred.

Middaugh said the relationship eventually turned sour, prompting her to change the locks to her house.

"I was trying to get away from him," she said.

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