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One of men charged in beating death testifies victim was being punished

By Gheni_Platenburg
Sept. 20, 2010 at 4:20 a.m.

Rolando "Ro Ro" Pena Jr.

WHAT'S NEXT?Antonio Castillo Jr. is expected to testify Tuesday when the trial continues in district Judge Robert Cheshire's court. It is set to begin at 9 a.m.

Attorney Jim Beeler is representing Marcus Pena.

District Attorney Steve Tyler and assistant district attorney Eli Garza are prosecuting the case.

One of the men charged in the beating death of a Victoria man in August 2009 testified Monday that the victim was being punished.

Bloomington resident David Francisco Barron, 26, and Victoria residents Marcus "Pelon" Pena, 24, Rolando "Ro Ro" Pena Jr., 26, and Antonio Castillo Jr. are all charged with murder in the 2009 death of Jason "Big J" Garcia, 24.

But only Barron and Marcus Pena, who is Rolando Pena's cousin, are on trial.

The two also face charges of engaging in organized criminal activity and capital murder.

Monday marked the fifth day of testimony.

Because of the ties this case has to the Mexican Mafia street gang, the Victoria County District Attorney's Office has asked The Victoria Advocate not to use the names of some court witnesses for their protection.

Rolando Pena, who is represented by defense attorney Luis Martinez, told jurors Garcia was attacked for refusing to help Barron and Marcus Pena fight a friend of Garcia's who was also a suspected member of rival gang Southside Locos, at Club Caliente earlier that evening.

They were also upset Garcia refused to provide his friend's contact information after the fight.

"They disrespected some of the homeboys. That's how we felt," said Rolando Pena about the guys' feelings about the fight. "He started getting punished for it."

Rolando Pena said they assumed Garcia was lying and wanted to protect his friend.

Rolando Pena said the beating began while the car was still moving.

Marcus Pena and Antonio Castillo, who were sitting next to Garcia in the backseat, threw the first punches, he said.

Garcia attempted to jump out of the moving vehicle, prompting Rolando Pena to order Barron, who was driving, to stop the vehicle in the parking lot of Magic Industries.

"I had on my mind that he was going to mess up my car," said Rolando Pena about his early 90s white Cadillac. "I got out the car with intentions of hitting him."

After stopping the car, Rolando Pena said he pulled the slumped over Garcia, who he had known since the sixth grade, out the car and onto the concrete, where Barron and Marcus Pena started beating and kicking Garcia in silence.

"He was on all fours trying to get up, but he never got up. He was hurt too bad," said Rolando Pena, who said he declined to touch Garcia after seeing his condition. "He was just moaning."

Eventually, the men left Garcia on the concrete and got back in the car with the intentions of leaving, but not without Barron contemplating whether to run over Garcia with the car first.

Rolando Pena said he told Barron, who was still driving, not to run over Garcia because of the possible damage to his car.

Rolando Pena said the men left Garcia in the parking lot seriously injured and in need of emergency medical attention, but nobody called 911.

The men later returned to Marcus Pena's wife's house for a meal of tacos and beer.

Later that day, the men fled Victoria in a car Marcus Pena's wife had filled with gasoline and with drinks that Barron's girlfriend had packed.

All the men, except for Castillo, fled to Corpus Christi, where Rolando Pena had made arrangements for the men to stay with his aunt, who also testified.

Rolando Pena's aunt testified the men stayed for at least four days, during which time they attempted to sell her a diamond watch and cross necklace for $20 each.

The jewelry was later identified as belonging to Garcia,

While in Corpus Christi, Rolando Pena said the men spent time trying to rid the car of blood and discussing what had happened in Victoria.

On the stand, Rolando Pena said Barron, who had joked about his hands being deadly weapons, told him he would take the rap for Garcia's death.

Rolando Pena's aunt said the presence of helicopters flying around her home searching with spotlights did cause her to think something might have been wrong, but she never asked the men about any potential problems.

The men eventually left town with relatives of Barron, but not before requesting that Rolando Pena's aunt pray for them.

"I blessed Roland," said his aunt, who referred to her nephew by his anglicized name. "He said to give him something for protection from his enemies."

The men were later arrested in a mini van while en route to Mexico, after having recruited relatives of Barron to transport them from Corpus Christi to Laredo.

The children of Barron's adult relatives who had given him and his friends a ride later discovered Garcia's watch and necklace.

Both Rolando Pena and Castillo received plea deals in exchange for their testimony.

Rolando Pena, who was charged with the same offenses as Barron and his cousin, only pleaded guilty to murder.

He is facing a 40-year prison sentence.

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