Two men who befriended Todric Deon McDonald in 2014 testified Tuesday that McDonald confessed to his role in the shooting deaths of two cousins at a North Waco apartment complex.
John Leho, a Navy veteran who met McDonald while Leho and his wife were abusing drugs and living in a seedy Waco motel, and Joe Maciel Jr., who met McDonald in the McLennan County Jail, both told jurors that McDonald said he killed Justin Gonzalez and Ulysses Gonzalez in May 2014.
McDonald is on trial for capital murder in Waco’s 19th State District Court in the shooting deaths at the Pecan Tree Apartments, 2600 Grim Ave. Justin Gonzalez, 24, and Ulysses Gonzalez, 30, both died at the scene from multiple gunshot wounds.
Prosecutors Hilary LaBorde, Robert Moody and Evan O’Donnell told Judge Ralph Strother they likely will rest their case by noon Thursday. Defense attorneys John Donahue and Jon Evans informed the court it is possible the jury could start deliberations Thursday afternoon.
Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty in the case, meaning Strother will sentence McDonald to an automatic life prison term with no parole if the 32-year-old is convicted of capital murder.
Leho, an electrician, testified that he and McDonald met through a mutual friend while smoking methamphetamine together at a motel. McDonald offered to let Leho and his wife stay at a home occupied by McDonald’s uncle at the time, and Leho said he taught McDonald about firearms as their friendship grew.
Once, McDonald drove home in a dark blue GMC Yukon and told Leho that he knew there were drugs and cash stashed in the car somewhere. He asked Leho to take it apart to find the goods, which Leho said he did, turning the drugs and cash over to McDonald. He put the vehicle back together, and McDonald and Tony Olivarez were driving it on the morning of the shooting deaths, Leho said.
A woman testified Tuesday she helped McDonald stash the Yukon in Elm Mott after the killings.
Olivarez, 34, is charged with capital murder as McDonald’s co-defendant. His case remains pending.
Leho, who is on felony probation for theft from an elderly person, said McDonald, Olivarez and a woman came home in the early morning hours of May 13, 2014, and Olivarez told him to “bring up the news channels” on his phone. They were acting nervous and paranoid, Leho said. When Olivarez saw a story about the double slaying, he ran into the other room, where McDonald and the woman were, he said.
Leho asked McDonald what he had to do with what was on the news.
“He said, ‘Man, I got everything to do with it,’” Leho said.
He told McDonald he should have told him what he planned to do and he could have advised him how to avoid getting caught, Leho said. He said he told McDonald to “get cleaned up,” instructing him to take a shower and get rid of the gun and his clothes because he said they surely would have gunshot residue on them.
Maciel, who has been in jail since 2014 on an aggravated assault charge and a parole violation, testified he and McDonald were housed in cells next to each other in the jail’s segregation unit. They talked to each other through the walls and doors, and Maciel earned McDonald’s trust by giving him advice on his case and how to file a grievance against his attorney.
Maciel has served prison terms for aggravated assault and felony DWI. He said McDonald told him details about his case, many of which echoed the testimonies Tuesday of two women who were in the apartment at the time of the shootings and who identified McDonald as one of two men who killed the cousins.
In other prosecution testimony Wednesday, Michael McNeill said he engaged in a shootout with McDonald and Olivarez about four hours before the pair reportedly were involved in the double homicide at the Grim Avenue apartment.
McNeill testified he was at his former home at 2325 Morrow Ave. when McDonald and Olivarez came over. He said McDonald told him to give him a gun, and when McNeill refused, McDonald pulled a gun and ordered him to go get it. He said he tried to “talk him down,” before telling McDonald he would go into another room and get it.
But instead of giving McDonald the weapon, he said he came out firing at him. The two exchanged gunfire in the home and outside into the street until McDonald and Olivarez fled, McNeill said. Gunshots hit the TV, a sofa and shattered a glass picture frame, but no one was hit, police said.
William Hicks and Chad Brown, both deputy U.S. Marshals, told the jury about the day they arrested McDonald after chasing him about 15 blocks down Bosque Boulevard at speeds topping 80 mph. When McDonald, who flew by a school bus and sideswiped a deputy marshal’s vehicle, finally stopped because his car was incapacitated, officials learned he had a woman and a 3-year-old child in the car with him, according to the testimony.
Jurors watched the harrowing pursuit, which was videotaped by an officer’s dashboard camera and played on court monitors.