Two women who cowered in fear in a North Waco apartment as two cousins were gunned down in 2014 identified Todric Deon McDonald on Tuesday as one of two gunmen.
The two women and a third witness who said McDonald told her he killed the two men highlighted opening-day testimony in McDonald’s capital murder trial in Waco’s 19th State District Court.
McDonald, 32, is charged in the May 2014 shooting deaths of Justin Javier Gonzalez, 24, and Ulysses Gonzalez, 30, at the Pecan Tree Apartments, 2600 Grim Ave.
Lisa Muniz and Ruby Murray told the jury of 10 women and two men that they were friends with Justin Gonzalez, who temporarily was selling methamphetamine out of Murray’s apartment and sharing drugs and a portion of the proceeds with them.
Muniz started crying when asked if she recognized McDonald as one of two men who shot and killed the cousins.
“When I look at him, it’s the eyes, the eyes,” she said, sobbing quietly as she identified McDonald as one of the men who shot and killed Justin Gonzalez and Ulysses Gonzalez.
Tony Olivarez, 34, is charged with capital murder as McDonald’s co-defendant in the shooting deaths. His case is pending in Waco’s 54th State District Court.
Half of the courtroom Monday was filled with family members and friends of the victims, several of whom started crying when prosecutors Hilary LaBorde, Robert Moody and Evan O’Donnell showed crime-scene photos of the two men.
Muniz, who wore shackles and jail garb, is in the McLennan County Jail on forgery and drug possession charges. She testified that she met Justin Gonzalez through her sister and that their friendship centered around drug use. She said Justin Gonzalez was a drug dealer and that she had only seen Ulysses Gonzalez twice when he was hanging out with Justin.
She said the four of them were doing drugs at Murray’s Grim Avenue apartment the night of the shootings when she went to the store to buy cigarettes and cigars for the group. Muniz said she was driving Justin’s car when she met McDonald and another man, who were driving into the parking lot as she was leaving.
McDonald asked where Justin was, but she pretended she did not know who he was talking about because she did not know McDonald or his intentions, she said. They followed her to the store, and McDonald walked in behind her, she said. She said she got what she wanted and left, and that she called Justin Gonzalez on the way to tell her she was being followed by two men who were asking about him.
She said Justin met her in the parking lot when she returned. He shook hands with McDonald and invited him and the other man to Murray’s second-story apartment, Muniz said.
“It looked like everything was good, like it was going to be OK,” Muniz said.
But she said Justin and McDonald got into an argument, and the other man with McDonald locked the door and pulled out a pistol. McDonald also pulled a pistol, she said. Murray tried to run into the other room, but the other man grabbed her, put a gun to her head and forced her to her knees.
That was when McDonald shot Ulysses, Muniz said. She covered her face and heard Justin say, “No.” McDonald also shot Justin, she said, adding that she heard eight or nine shots. After the shooting stopped, McDonald pointed the gun at her and threatened to kill her if she told anyone about what she saw.
After the pair left, she turned in time to see Justin take his last breath, she said. Murray locked the door but started panicking again because she said she could hear the men returning to the apartment.
O’Donnell told the jury in opening statements that they returned because they had second-thoughts about leaving witnesses behind and intended to kill them, too.
The men tried to kick open the door and then fired shots at the locks, but that only jammed the door shut, Muniz said. Muniz asked Murray if there was another way out, and Murray led her to a sliding door in the bedroom that led to a balcony. Muniz said she jumped from the second floor and landed on her back. She lost a shoe and her phone as she fled down the street to a friend’s house, where she called her brother, she said.
Her brother came to pick her up, and they called police.
Under cross-examination from defense attorney John Donahue, Muniz said her prolonged methamphetamine use made her memory of the incident worse and that she had been smoking meth all day and into the early morning hours.
Donahue asked her about a police report in which she told investigators that the “fat one” shot Justin, which would not have been McDonald. Donahue wondered how she could see Justin get shot if she closed her eyes and flinched as she described. Donahue also said she was unable to pick McDonald out of a police photo array a few days after the murders.
Murray said she and Justin, who was selling drugs out of her apartment, had been up “partying” for two days straight when the man she identified as McDonald and another man came in and pulled guns. She said she thinks both men may have fired shots that night, which is consistent with testimony from Waco crime scene officials who found .40-caliber and .380 shell casings inside and outside the apartment.
After Muniz jumped, Murray said she hid under a futon on the balcony until she heard the voices of police officers.
Murray told LaBorde she initially lied to police about what she saw because she did not want to get involved.
“I was scared. I was full of drugs. I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “But Justin was a friend, and I know he didn’t deserve to get killed the way he got killed. He didn’t deserve any of that.”
In other testimony, Melissa Moore, a friend of McDonald’s, said she let McDonald hide out at her house for a couple of days and helped him arrange to hide the stolen dark blue SUV he was driving on the night of the shootings. He told her he was ducking his girlfriend, Moore said.
She said she had no idea McDonald was involved in the deaths until she saw how he reacted to a television news account of the killings. “I didn’t put it all together until after the news came on and he burned out of there,” she said.
Moore initially testified that McDonald said that he f----- up as he ran out the door. Later, after some prodding from LaBorde, she said McDonald confessed to her that he killed the men.
Prosecution testimony resumes Wednesday morning.