Texas Execution Information Center

Execution Report: Robert Garza

Robert Garza
Robert Garza
Executed on 19 September 2013

Robert Gene Garza, 30, was executed by lethal injection on 19 September 2013 in Huntsville, Texas for the gang-related murder of four women.

On the evening of 4 September 2002, six women were working at Garcia's Bar in Donna, a town in the Rio Grande valley, east of McAllen. After the bar closed at midnight, they rode together in a Pontiac Grand Am to their trailer home outside of town. After the car stopped, but before anyone could exit, dozens of gunshots were fired into the car. Four of the women - Maria Cobarrubias, Danitzene Beltran, Celina Sanchez, and Lourdes Torres - died. Karla Ramos survived gunshot wounds to her arm and leg. Magda Vasquez was uninjured.

Donna police officer Alejandro Martinez was the first officer to arrive at the scene. Witnesses told him that a Chevrolet Blazer had been parked close to the trailer at the time of the shooting. The vehicle was white, had paper license tags, and no hubcaps.

Martinez, finding that the crime occurred outside Donna city limits, contacted the Hidalgo County sheriff's office. Investigators with that office recovered 61 bullet casings from the scene. The rounds were 9mm and 7.76mm.

Investigators also found an abandoned, out-of-gas Chevrolet Blazer matching the description given to Officer Martinez a few miles from the trailer park. It had been reported stolen a few days earlier. It contained some items of clothing that did not belong to the vehicle's owner, including a red bandana with white markings.

Based on statements taken from the surviving victims, authorities investigated three men who had been in Garcia's Bar on the night of the shooting, but they were unable to find any evidence connecting any of them to the crime. They also investigated several other bar patrons and pursued some anonymous tips, but after a few weeks, they were left with no suspects.

On 5 January 2003, four months after the murders, six people were found shot to death in two houses on a semi-rural cul-de-sac in Edinburg, also in Hidalgo County. The incident, known locally as the "Edinburg Massacre," immediately drew comparisons with the Donna slayings from the public and the media. Police investigated the TriCity Bombers gang, or T.C.B., for the killings. Through their investigation, several members of the gang, including Garza, then 19, became suspects in the Donna slayings.

Prosecutors advanced the theory that the Donna killings were ordered by T.C.B. leader Jesus Carlos Rodriguez, who was awaiting trial for an attempted murder committed at Garcia's Bar on 31 March 2001. Two women, Nora Rodriguez and Mercedes Quintero, had witnessed the incident and had been called to testify. Both women lived at the trailer park where the murders were committed. Nora Rodriguez was also the manager of Garcia's Bar. Prosecutors said that the hitmen made a mistake and killed the wrong targets.

On 26 January, Garza was taken to the Hidalgo County sheriff's office, where he gave a confession. Garza stated that he had been instructed concerning an arranged hit, and on 5 September, he received instructions that the hit was to be carried out that day. At approximately 7 p.m., Ricardo Martinez picked up Garza and Mark Anthony Reyna in a four-dour sedan, either a Buick Cutlass or Regal. They then picked up a fourth person, later identified as Guadalupe Guerra, but who Garza simply called "Manny." An AK-47 assault rifle, a TEC-9 handgun, and another 9mm handgun were in the trunk of the vehicle.

According to Garza's confession, the men drove by Garcia's Bar, then went to pick up a second vehicle, which had been stolen. Garza and Reyna got in the second vehicle and waited for "them" to come. They later saw two vehicles drive by - a Grand Am and the Buick - and followed them. When the vehicles stopped, Martinez and Guerra got out of the Buick and started shooting. They then left the scene and abandoned the Buick. They drove around in the second vehicle until it "broke down," then they left on foot. Garza added that "Rocha" - J.C. Rodriguez - "was mad 'cause it wasn't done right."

Investigators recovered a TEC-9 from a gang member's grandparents' house and determined that it fired 18 of the 9mm casings recovered from the scene. Three 7.76mm Chinese-made SKS military rifles were found at a gang member's friend's house. Firearms specialist Tim Counce testified that he could not "identify or eliminate" any of the SKS rifles as murder weapons. He further testified that the SKS rifles could appear to be AK-47s to the untrained eye.

Detective Roberto Alvarez testified that the TriCity Bombers identified themselves by the colors red and black and often carried and wore red shirts and bandannas. Robert Garza had a tattoo on his chest with the words "Tri City Bomber" and the initials "T.C.B.", along with various other tattoos on other body parts, signifying his membership in the gang.

In pre-trial proceedings, Garza's lawyers attempted to prevent his confession from being admitted into evidence. In an amended statement, Garza wrote that he did not commit the crime, and only "wrote what the investigators told me, to get things I wanted." Garza stated that he was told that if he confessed, he would be allowed to make some phone calls, would be allowed to see his pregnant wife, and would be released from "the hole" to the general jail population. In response, investigator Juan Sifuentes testified that he offered no favors or promises to Garza for his confession. Garza did get to make some phone calls and see his wife, Sifuentes said, but that was independent of his statement. Sifuentes said he had nothing to do with where prisoners were kept in the jail. The judge ruled against Garza and allowed his confession to be admitted.

Two trailer park residents who witnessed the shooting testified that it was committed by two men wearing black clothing.

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