Former gang member tells of victim's death
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John Gilbert Licon's no shows at Hermanos Pistoleros Latinos activities for two years was indeed the trigger that led to his death, a fellow gang member testified Wednesday during day three of the murder trial of Timothy "Timo" Mendoza III.
Mendoza, 38, was charged with murder and engaging in organized criminal activity in connection with the 2006 stabbing death of 36-year-old Licon.
Joe Brian "Turtle" Martinez Sr. 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 the 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.
Dressed in his yellow inmate attire, Martinez testified about his and Mendoza's gang involvement and the events that occurred Jan. 19.
Martinez first joined the HPL in 2002 as an "esquina" (corner).
With Mendoza serving as his "padrino," (godfather) Martinez said he quickly moved up the ranks from esquina to "prospecto" (instructor) to finally a "carnal" (friend or member) in 2005, after he shot Joseph Gomez at Victoria's Mockingbird Apartments.
Martinez told jurors that on the morning of Licon's death, he arrived late to his wife's ultrasound because he was too busy drinking and barbecuing with fellow HPL members, including Mendoza, at Riverside Park.
After the father of four picked his wife up from the doctor and later dropped her back off at home, he spent the rest of the day with Mendoza, who was a lieutenant of the HPL, and Perez, who was a captain of the HPL.
Later that night, Mendoza and Martinez came to Martinez's home and suggested they and Martinez's wife, who was four months pregnant at the time, go the LC Club so the men could drink more.
Licon arrived at the club some time after Martinez and his group had arrived, prompting Mendoza to borrow Martinez's phone to call Perez.
Martinez said it was after this call that he learned Perez had ordered a hit on Licon, who was a carnal of the HPL.
"Marque told (Mendoza) that John Gilbert Licon was not supposed to be coming back home," Martinez said. "We were ordered to kill John Gilbert Licon."
Confused about why they had been ordered to kill someone he thought was a fellow brother of the HPL, Martinez also called Perez, who then explained the reasoning behind the hit.
"He was not around for two years, and they didn't know where he was," said Martinez.
Unwilling to question the hit further, Martinez said he and Mendoza then began to devise a plan to get rid of the older gentleman and woman that Licon had come to the club with.
After chatting with Licon to keep him occupied, Martinez said he asked the victim to accompany him and Mendoza to "knock off" some members of the Mexican Mafia, a rival street gang.
Licon agreed, walking his elderly male friend to a bridge near his home and sending his girlfriend home.
Martinez also got rid of his wife, instructing her to take some personal items belonging to him and Mendoza over to Mendoza's house and then return home.
Family members of Licon cried as Martinez shared the details of how he and Mendoza lured Licon outside the LC Club and began to attack him.
While Martinez contended that he only stabbed Licon twice, he said Mendoza threw Licon's crutches out of reach and stabbed the one-legged man repeatedly.
When asked by Victoria County District Attorney Steve Tyler whether Licon said anything during the attack, Martinez replied, "He just asked why. That's all he said."
Tyler showed jurors pictures of Licon's bloody, mangled body.
Martinez said he had no explanation of why Licon's body was found in the grassy field between the clubs or how Licon's shirt got ripped.
After being dropped off near Martinez's house by two fellow HPL members, the men walked the rest of the way home and proceeded to clean the blood from their bodies and discard their bloody clothes.
Martinez told jurors that after the cleanup session, he and his wife dropped Mendoza off at his house, but not before they stopped so Mendoza could purchase some cocaine.
Before heading home themselves, Martinez said they stopped at Whataburger and he confessed his crime to his wife.
Wanting to prove to his wife what happened, the couple drove by the LC Club so he could show her the dead body, which had already been removed by the time they arrived.
The Victoria police questioned Martinez the next morning about the crime and executed a search of his house.
Martinez is currently serving time for federal drug charges.
However, he has plea deals on the table for pleading guilty not only to his charges in Licon's death, but also for the aggravated assault and attempted murder of Joseph Gomez, for which he has not yet been indicted.
He will receive 35 years for each case, which will be served concurrently.
During the trial, another former HPL member, who is a protected informant, also testified.
He, along with Sam Eyre, who served as an expert HPL witness, testified about Mendoza's involvement with the HPL.
The protected informant, who is serving time for the 2003 shooting death of 6-year-old Robert "Polo" Conchola, told jurors that in exchange for his testimony, he hoped to get a plea deal for the 2002 Timothy Hunt murder.
The trial will reconvene at 9 a.m. Thursday.