After three years of holding a death sentence over Todric Deon McDonald’s head, prosecutors said Friday they will not seek the death penalty if McDonald is convicted in a 2014 double murder.
Prosecutor Robert Moody told 19th State District Judge Ralph Strother at a status hearing Friday that family members of the victims are fine with the decision as long as there are no more delays in getting the capital murder case to trial.
The family is more interested in seeing that the Feb. 10 trial date comes off as planned and was aware defense attorneys John Donahue and Jon Evans likely would have sought another delay had prosecutors continued to pursue the death penalty, Moody said.
Evans and Donahue declined comment on the state’s decision after the brief hearing. Moody also declined comment.
McDonald, 31, is charged in the May 2014 shooting deaths of cousins Justin Javier Gonzalez and Ulysses Gonzalez at the Pecan Tree Apartments, 2600 Grimm Ave. Both men died from multiple gunshot wounds. Prosecutors announced in May 2015 that they would seek the death penalty in the case.
With the threat of the death penalty now removed, McDonald faces life in prison without parole if convicted.
“That does simplify logistical issues at the very least,” Strother said of the decision.
In death penalty cases, potential jurors are interviewed individually by prosecutors and defense attorneys, an arduous process that can take up to a month to complete.
The victim’s mothers, Mary Rodriguez and Maria Gonzalez, and other family members have attended most of the pretrial hearings in McDonald’s case for the last couple of years. At the last hearing in June, at which Strother set the February trial date, Mary Rodriguez, mother of Justin Gonzalez, said, “Thank Jesus.”
“I feel good that it is finally coming to an end,” she said. “It has taken so long. It has been frustrating. But we are glad and relieved that we finally have a trial set.”
No family member of either victim attended Friday’s hearing.
A status conference in the capital murder case of McDonald’s co-defendant, Tony Olivarez, 33, is set for Nov. 16 in Waco’s 54th State District Court. No trial date has been set in Olivarez’s case.