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One of men charged in beating death testifies he did it to save himself

By Gheni_Platenburg
Sept. 21, 2010 at 4:21 a.m.

Rolando Pena

WHAT'S NEXT?

Closing arguments will be heard from both the prosecution and defense attorneys when the trial continues in district judge Robert Cheshire's courtroom at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

After that, the jury is expected to begin deliberating.

Luis Martinez is representing Rolando Pena Jr.

Jim Beeler is representing Marcus Pena.

Brent Dornburg is representing David Barron.

Keith Weiser is representing Antonio Castillo Jr.

District Attorney Steve Tyler and Assistant Eli Garza are representing the state.

One of the men charged in the August 2009 beating death of Jason Garcia, said Tuesday he participated to save his own life.

Testimony in the trial ended Tuesday and the jury is expected to begin deliberating on Wednesday.

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

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.

Castillo said he took part in the beating out of fear that Barron and the Pena cousins would beat him up a second time that night if he did not participate.

"I went along with them because I figured I was next," said Castillo. "I didn't want to get hit up anymore than I already was."

Rolando Pena testified on Monday the men attacked Castillo for being too impatient while the group was attempting to purchase guns from a man in Silver City.

The group planned to use the guns to retaliate against a friend of Garcia's and his suspected gang, the Southside Locos, because the friend had gotten into a fight with Barron and Marcus Pena at Club Caliente earlier that evening.

Despite having been attacked by his friends, Castillo stayed with the group, who had received a call from Garcia requesting a ride home.

After the group picked up Garcia from The Hideaway Bar, 1807 Stolz St., Castillo said Garcia began to immediately be questioned about his refusal to help Barron and Marcus Pena fight his friend earlier that night as well as his refusal to provide his friend's contact information.

Although Castillo said he had only met Garcia once before that night, he said Marcus Pena requested he join him in throwing the first punches in the backseat.

"I made a stupid decision to go along with these guys," said Castillo, who admitted he was intoxicated most of the night. "I wasn't thinking straight."

Castillo said he was the one who stopped Garcia from getting out of the white Cadillac while it was still traveling around 10 to 20 mph.

Soon after, the group pulled into the parking lot of Magic Industries where Rolando Pena said he pulled Garcia's slumped-over body out of the car and onto the concrete.

Although he admitted to kicking and beating Garcia in the parking lot, he said he and Rolando Pena eventually stopped and watched the others continue the attack.

"As hard as they were hitting him, it looked like they were going to kill him," said Castillo. "They were putting their whole body into it."

He was unsure whether the attack had been pre-planned by the other men.

Castillo did not flee Victoria with the other men, who planned to escape to Mexico.

Sometime after all the men were arrested, Castillo said he received verbal and written threats from Barron and Marcus Pena about choosing to turn state's evidence.

Victoria police Detective Travis Stillwell also testified about recovering Garcia's jewelry from Barron's relatives who had given him and his friends a ride from Corpus Christi to Laredo.

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

Rolando Pena pleaded guilty to murder and faces a 40-year prison sentence, while Castillo has the option to plead guilty to either engaging in organized criminal activity or murder and receive a 20-year prison sentence.

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