A Waco woman identified Tony Olivarez on Tuesday as one of two men who turned her apartment into a shooting gallery that left two men dead in 2014.
Olivarez, 34, is on trial for capital murder in Waco’s 54th State District Court in the May 2014 drug-related shooting deaths of cousins Justin Gonzalez and Ulysses Gonzalez at the Pecan Tree Apartments, 2600 Grim Ave.
Olivarez’s co-defendant, Todric Deon McDonald, is serving a life prison term with no parole after his conviction in February.
Prosecutors Robert Moody, Nelson Barnes and Evan O’Donnell waived the death penalty in Olivarez’s case, meaning he will be sentenced to an automatic life term without parole if convicted of capital murder.
Ruby Murray, who was allowing Justin Gonzalez to deal cocaine and methamphetamine out of her apartment at the Pecan Tree complex in exchange for drugs and cash, choked back tears as she looked at Olivarez and identified him as one of the two men who were involved in the cousins’ deaths.
Murray said she buried her head in a sofa when the shooting started and could not say if Olivarez or McDonald or both men fired the shots that led to the men’s deaths. Police found shell casings and projectiles from .40-caliber and .380 pistols, according to trial testimony Tuesday.
Murray said after the two came in with guns drawn, the man she identified as Olivarez pointed a gun at her face and said, “B----, get down.”
She only heard multiple shots being fired that echoed throughout her small living room, she said. Before the shooting started, she heard Justin Gonzalez and McDonald arguing before McDonald told Ulysses Gonzalez to “go stand over there with your family.”
She said Ulysses Gonzalez begged for his life, telling the men that “it doesn’t have to be this way.”
Murray said she was lifelong friends with Justin Gonzalez but only met Ulysses Gonzalez and a woman Justin Gonzalez brought to the apartment with him, Lisa Muniz, the night of the shootings.
Murray, a fast-food restaurant employee, said she and Justin Gonzalez were using drugs and had been up for two days straight when the men she identified as Olivarez and McDonald came in with guns drawn and shot the cousins.
When she looked up, the men were gone, and she ran over to lock the door, she said. She got the door locked just as McDonald and Olivarez returned and demanded they open the door, Murray said. Moody suggested the men returned because they had left witnesses behind who could identify them. Murray agreed.
The men shot the door and locks multiple time before fleeing, she said. Muniz was screaming and asked if there was another way out the apartment, Murray said. She told her there was a door leading to a second-story balcony, and Muniz jumped to the ground and started running away, Murray said.
Murray hid beneath a futon on the porch until police officers arrived. She said she ran to her mother’s house and slept there under her bed for about two months. Murray described the terrifying brush with death as a “turning point” in her life and said she never returned to that apartment and has not used drugs since.
Murray acknowledged that she lied to police that night by telling them she was in a back bedroom and did not see anything, telling Moody she feared retaliation.
“I was scared and I was high and I didn’t want to be involved,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do.”
Under cross-examination, attorney Russ Hunt Jr., who is defending Olivarez with his father, Russ Hunt, questioned Murray’s identification of Olivarez. Hunt asked why she told detectives the man she later identified as Olivarez had a teardrop tattoo under his eye and why she could not pick Olivarez out of a police photo array.
McDonald, who is black, not Olivarez, who is Hispanic, has a teardrop tattoo under his eye, Hunt noted. Murray explained there is something distinctive about Olivarez’s eyes and that is how she can identify him. However, Hunt pointed out that the tattoo she thought he had would have been near his eyes.
In other testimony, Muniz, a motel maid, said she also was friends with Justin Gonzalez and that they shared drugs together. While they were at the Pecan Tree apartment, Justin Gonzalez asked her to go to the store to get some cigarettes. She said she ran into two men looking for Justin Gonzalez on her way out of the apartment driveway but she did not tell them where to find him.
She said the men followed her into the store and followed her back to the apartment. On the way, she called Justin Gonzalez to tell him she was being followed, and he told her he was expecting them. She said when the men got there, they shook hands with Justin Gonzalez, so she thought everything was OK.
She said both men pulled guns, and the one she called “the skinny dude” shot Ulysses Gonzalez. She said she covered her face and does not know who shot Justin Gonzalez.
Prosecution testimony continues Wednesday morning.