Homicide victim's decision to leave gang may have led to his death
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Presiding Judge: District Judge Skipper Koetter
Defense attorney: Chris Iles
Prosecutor: Victoria County District Attorney Steve Tyler
A decision to cut ties with the Hermanos Pistoleros Latinos street gang led to John Gilbert Licon's death, a witness said Tuesday during the high-profile murder trial of Timothy "Timo" Mendoza III.
Mendoza, 38, is one of 16 gang members who was indicted by a Victoria County grand jury in October for murder and attempted murder cases that date to 2001.
He was charged with murder and engaging in organized criminal activity for the 2006 stabbing death of Licon, 36.
Originally, Mendoza went on trial for the charges on April 5.
However, District Judge Skipper Koetter declared a mistrial on April 6 at the request of defense attorney Chris Iles, after the jury heard some evidence that suggested Mendoza had been in jail before, which impinged on his presumption of innocence.
Testimony in Mendoza's new trial began Tuesday.
Joe Brian "Turtle" Martinez and Marcus "Marque" Perez face the same charges.
On Jan. 19, 2006, Licon was found lying with multiple stab wounds in a grassy field between Club Margaritas, 3711 Port Lavaca Drive, and the LC Club, 3801 Port Lavaca Drive.
Because this case is tied to the gang Hermanos Pistoleros Latinos, the Victoria County District Attorney's Office has asked the Victoria Advocate not to use the names of some witnesses for their protection.
Jurors heard testimony from Martinez's wife who said she along with her husband and Mendoza went to the LC Club the night of Jan. 19 - hours after the trio had attended a barbecue at Riverside Park with friends of the men.
Martinez's wife, who was four months pregnant at the time, said her husband and Mendoza became tense once Licon arrived at the club.
Before the men made their way over to greet Licon, she said her husband and Mendoza had been cursing, mumbling in a low volume and taking turns making telephone calls after seeing the victim.
Later that night, she returned to her house after taking some of the men's personal items to Mendoza's house. She had left her husband and Martinez at the club.
When she arrived home, Martinez's wife said she saw her husband and Martinez burning clothes in a barbecue pit and washing their arms and hands in what smelled like bleach.
Still later that night, she and her husband, who had blood on his hands and shoes, drove Mendoza back to his house. She testified that then her husband instructed her to swing by the LC Club so he could show her a dead body, which had already been removed by the time the couple arrived.
Martinez's confession came soon afterward.
"He told me he and Timo stabbed (Licon) to death," said Martinez's wife.
She said her husband went on to tell her that Licon had been "X'd out" of the HPL.
"He was not going to the meetings, and he didn't want to have anything to do with them so he was ordered to die," she said.
Jurors also heard testimony from other witnesses who were with Licon the night of his death.
An older male friend of Licon, who admitted to jurors that he was an alcoholic and had downed two 12-ounce beers before taking the witness stand, testified that Licon and Licon's girlfriend accompanied him to the LC Club to have a beer.
But when Licon arrived at the club, the bartender refused to serve him because he was already intoxicated.
Unable to get a drink, the male friend said Licon, Licon's girlfriend and another man, who he could not identify, walked Licon to a bridge near his home.
The male friend said that was the last time he saw Licon alive.
Iles, the defense attorney, questioned the reliability of the friend's testimony based on his visible irritability when answering questions and admitting to drinking that morning.
When Iles questioned the man about his ability to recall the events that occurred the night of Licon's death, the witness replied, "I remember about half of it, but I'm not sure because I was drunk."
From the witness stand, Licon's girlfriend identified Mendoza as the man who accompanied them to the bridge.
The group had encountered Mendoza as well as another Hispanic man in the club that night.
Before she left Licon at the club to return home alone at the behest of Mendoza, she recalled hearing one of the men say, "Bros before ho's."
Also, during the trial, Elizabeth Peacock, Travis County deputy medical examiner, testified that Licon, who was missing his left leg and had an HPL tattoo on his arm, died of multiple sharp force injuries.
She also told jurors the victim had both Benadryl and marijuana in his system at the time of his death, as well as a blood alcohol level of .11, which is above the legal limit for driving in Texas.
Licon was pronounced dead by emergency crews in the grassy field.
The trial will resume at 9 a.m. Wednesday.