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Three men indicted in 7-year-old cold case

By Gheni_Platenburg
July 20, 2011 at 2:20 a.m.

Mario Esteban Canchola

It was news Geneva Vega Mireles waited for more than seven years to hear - suspects had finally been indicted in her son's 2004 shooting death.

Mario Esteban Canchola, 26; Albert R. Perez, 37; and Joe Mendoza, 36, were all indicted on July 7 for the death of Mireles' 15-year-old son Joshua "Josh" Anthony Gonzalez.

"I just thought it happened, and they would get away with it," Mireles said through tears after learning of the indictments. "Now, my son can rest."

The three men were indicted on counts of first-degree murder, second-degree attempted murder and engaging in organized criminal activity.

Members of the Hermanos Pistoleros Latinos street gang, the men, intended to kill a man named Paul Benavides, but instead shot Anthony Melcher and shot and killed Gonzalez, according to their indictments.

The defendants requested authority to proceed with the murder of Paul Benavides from the ruling "Mesa" of the HPL: They relayed communication of the ruling Mesa authorizing the Benavides' murder; coordinated a meeting of HPL members to plan Benavides' murder; approved the murder; and coordinated the cover up and destruction of evidence, according to their indictments.

Gonzalez was killed in a drive-by shooting in June 2004 at the intersection of Ben Wilson and Port Lavaca Highway.

On June 12, 2004, Gonzalez was a passenger in a Dodge Neon stopped at a traffic light at the intersection of Ben Wilson and Port Lavaca Highway, according to earlier reports.

Gonzalez and three other boys, including his older brother, were stopped at the light when the offenders' vehicle pulled up next to them and fired shots into the vehicle.

Melcher, the driver, was hit in the shoulder by the gunfire from people in a white car while Gonzalez was shot in the head.

After being shot, Melcher drove to Citizens Medical Center where he was treated and released.

Gonzalez was pronounced dead at the hospital.

"I was holding his hand, and he let me go," said Mireles as she recalled the last minutes she spent with her son. "He was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

With the case changing hands from one detective to another and the failure of witnesses to come forward with information, Mireles said she had begun to lose hope that anyone responsible for her son's death would ever be brought to justice.

She said a combination of medication, counseling and support from family members have helped her to get through the years, but each day continues to be a struggle.

"I don't go out. I don't socialize," she said. "It's hard every time his anniversary comes up, or his birthday or a holiday comes up."

The still grieving mother said she hopes Victoria County District Attorney Steve Tyler's next step will be to take the men to trial, avoiding any plea deals.

"They just took a life with no care," Mireles said. "I want them to be tried for what they did to him not just for whatever else they've done. I don't want any plea deal. That's how they get out of it because of another murder they've done or know about."

All three men are currently in custody.

Canchola turned himself in to authorities on Monday.

Meanwhile, Perez is currently serving an eight-year federal sentence on an unlawful weapon conviction as well as a 25-year sentence in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice after pleading guilty in 2007 to the charge of murdering Silvestre Ramos in 2005.

He also is concurrently serving a 20-year sentence for pleading guilty to the aggravated assault of Ramos.

Mendoza is serving a life sentence for the 2003 shooting death of 6-year-old Robert "Polo" Conchola.

A trial date has not yet been set in the Gonzalez case.

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