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Men found guilty of capital murder in August 2009 beating death, sentenced to life in prison

By Gheni_Platenburg
Sept. 23, 2010 at 4:23 a.m.
Updated Sept. 24, 2010 at 4:24 a.m.

David Francisco Barron

What comes next?Bloomington resident Antonio Castillo Jr., 26, and Victoria resident Rolando "Ro Ro" Pena Jr., 26, were also arrested in late August 2009 and charged with Garcia's death.

They agreed to testify for the state in exchange for lesser prison sentences.

Rolando Pena is expected to plead guilty to murder in exchange for 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.

Two men accused of beating a Victoria man to death in August 2009 were found guilty of capital murder on Thursday.

Bloomington resident David Francisco Barron, 26, and Victoria resident Marcus "Pelon" Pena, 24, were also found guilty of aggravated robbery in the 2009 death of Jason Garcia, also known as "Big J," 24.

They were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the capital murder charge and life in prison on the robbery charge.

The state did not seek the death penalty.

"We can't bring Jason back, but we can bring him justice," said District Attorney Steve Tyler, who along with assistant district attorney Eli Garza, represented the state.

The jury deliberated for more than an hour before they came back with the verdicts.

Barron and Pena showed no emotion as the verdicts were read, which was a big change from the laughing and joking the two were doing occasionally during the nine-day trial.

"I think it was just. I also think it's tragic. Two young men whose conduct was so abhorrent that for the rest of their natural lives they will be caged instead of out being productive," said Tyler. "The whole thing is quite tragic and regrettable."

Witnesses testified that 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.

Rolando Pena, who is Marcus Pena's cousin, testified Marcus Pena and Antonio Castillo, who were sitting next to Garcia in the backseat of a car, threw the first punches.

Shortly after the hitting began, the group pulled into the parking lot of Magic Industries, where Rolando Pena said he pulled Garcia out onto the concrete and the beating continued.

Eventually, the men left Garcia on the concrete seriously injured and in need of emergency medical attention, but nobody called 911.

After burning some of Garcia's belongings in a barbecue pit, all the men, except for Castillo, fled Victoria.

They were arrested outside of Corpus Christi while en route to Mexico with Garcia's watch and necklace.

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 witness.

Gabriel Castillo, an inmate at the Victoria County jail, testified Thursday that he overheard Barron and Marcus Pena plotting to steal a court bailiff's gun and shoot witnesses and the prosecutors, along with others in the courtroom, during the trial.

"The fact that they wanted to harm witnesses in the courtroom and harm me and others shows they do not have much respect for the law and our system," said Tyler.

The guilty verdicts did not sit well with their attorneys.

"I'm extremely disappointed in the verdict," said Brent Dornburg, who represented Barron. "I don't think the evidence warranted a conviction for capital murder by any stretch of the imagination."

Marcus Pena's attorney Jim Beeler expressed similar thoughts.

"Capital murder cases are the worst kind of cases," said Beeler. "This is not a capital murder case."

On the other hand, Garcia's mother, Norma Sanchez, was pleased with the jury's decisions.

"We're very happy with the verdict of two life sentences. That's what we were hoping for. We don't want another family to have to deal with this situation," said Sanchez.

Sanchez, 49, described her son as a caring young man who worked as an electrician apprentice to provide financially for his maternal grandparents, whom he lived with and helped care for.

"I've had a lot of sleepless nights where I cried myself to sleep," said Sanchez, a Corpus Christi resident. "My heart has been broken."

Marcus Pena's mother declined to comment on the verdict.

Nobody was available at the courthouse from Barron's family to comment.

Beeler and Dornburg said their clients have already filed for appeals.

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