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Jurors listen to sheriff's audio recording, but no confession transpired

By Gheni_Platenburg
June 23, 2010 at 1:23 a.m.

Armando Tijerina

2009 TIMELINE

April 17 - Vanessa Middaugh changed the locks to her house out of fear of Armando Tijerina.

April 23 - Middaugh loaned her house keys to Tijerina so he could look for a dead rat in her a/c vents.

May 2 - Tijerina caught on Lowe's video surveillance purchasing the same timer that would soon be found attached to the flammable device found in Middaugh's home.

May 9 - Middaugh discovers charcoals and bottles filled with flammable liquids, one of which has an electric timer and extension cord attached to it, in her spare bedroom.

May 11 - Tijerina was scheduled for a paternity test.

May 17 - Middaugh discovers additional flammable items in her spare bedroom.

May 26 - Tijerina is arrested and questioned by Sheriff's Office investigators at the Refugio County Sheriff's Office

The conclusion of an audio recording during day two of the Armando Tijerina trial revealed the defendant had tears and shame, but did not offer a confession.

Tuesday, jurors began listening to the audio recording of an interview Victoria County Sheriff's Office investigators conducted with Tijerina on May 26, 2009, at the Refugio County Sheriff's Office.

"A lot of times he just looked down at the ground. There was not an awful lot of eye contact," said investigator Jeff Meyer. "There would be some crying, but for the most part silence."

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

He is suspected of planting charcoals and bottles filled with flammable liquids in the home of Victoria resident Vanessa Middaugh, 29, who is his ex-girlfriend, on May 9, 2009. One of the bottles had an electrical timer attached to an extension cord.

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

During the recorded interview, which Meyer conducted along with investigator Thurmond Marshall, Tijerina did not confess to committing the crime nor did he give any explanation for why the crime occurred.

Throughout the recording, however, he did make the following utterances to questions asked to him, all the while never really answering the questions: "I do love my wife;" "I didn't want to hurt nobody;" "What am I going to tell my mother;" "I don't know what I was thinking;" "Am I going to Victoria?"

Richard Medina, Tijerina's former supervisor at the Ineos plant, testified that Tijerina was a good employee who would have had access to Ineos sample collection bottles, one of which was found at the crime scene.

"In regards to the stuff that he's loading, it would be," said Medina about it being part of Tijerina's job to use Ineos sample collection bottles in his line of work.

Medina, however, said Middaugh would have had just as much access to the bottles.

"She worked security, so they pretty much have access to everything," Medina said.

Jim Swindall, forensic scientist and manager of the State Fire Marshal's Arson Laboratory, also took the stand.

Swindall and his laboratory analyzed the flammable liquids that were in the seven bottles found at Middaugh's home. The analysis found that six of the bottles contained gasoline or a combination of gasoline and fuel oil, while one bottle contained a medium petroleum distillate, which could have been charcoal or a related compound.

It was also revealed during the trial that Middaugh called Sheriff's officers eight days after the initial incident to report she had found additional bottles and charcoal in a baby carrier that were all located in the original crime scene.

"Ms. Middaugh called the office and said she discovered some additional stuff," Marshall said.

When questioned why officers had not originally found the flammable items, Marshall replied, "The room looked more like a storage room that people would not be going through all the time."

He continued, "...I guess they thought they did a thorough search."

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