EDINBURG, Texas — The shackles clinked as convicted murderer Arturo Almaguer shuffled his feet and turned his head to the wall to avoid facing the family of the Minnedosa couple he murdered 25 years ago.
On Tuesday, Almaguer went before 206th state District Judge Rose Guerra Sanchez, who formally sentenced him to two consecutive life sentences for the murder of Evan and Wilda Squires in 1988.
Since the murder took place back then, Almaguer was convicted under the law of the time — meaning that he is eligible to be released on parole after 15 years served for each of the two life sentences.
Capital murder convictions today, in which prosecutors do not seek the death penalty, result in a mandatory life sentence without parole.
After five days of testimony and a little more than two hours of deliberation, jurors convicted Almaguer, 46, of three counts of capital murder on Monday. One of the counts was dismissed at the request of the prosecution because it could potentially be considered double jeopardy.
During Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, Colleen Jury, Wilda’s daughter-in-law, stood to talk about the pain the family felt after the murder, a pain they continue to feel 25 years later.
“I received that call just after midnight,” Jury said. “To be told they had been murdered.”
That night, Jury’s husband, William, was away on a business trip and her relatives had to drive 210 kilometres to be able to tell him in person that his mother had been murdered.
Jury described the Squires as a loving couple who had friends everywhere and always sought to help the community.
At trial, jurors heard about the night that Almaguer and another man broke into the Squires’ trailer home at the Magic Valley RV Park in Weslaco, looking to steal various items. Instead, he fired a revolver several times at the couple, killing them.
The trail went cold for police investigators. But in 2010, during various burglaries in Michigan that had gone unsolved at the time, Almaguer cut himself at a crime scene and linked the DNA to fecal matter left behind at the Squires’ home.
Almaguer wasn’t positively identified until May 2011, when he was convicted on drug and burglary charges. As part of the booking process, he had to provide a DNA sample that matched the feces and the blood.
Jury mentioned that Evan Squires had served during the Second World War as a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Since marrying Wilda, the two split their time between the family farm in Canada and their trailer home in Weslaco, Texas.
Jury mentioned that after the murder, her oldest son would have dreams where his grandparents would tell him to go with them.
“He said could smell his grandmother’s baking buns, which is something she was known for,” the relative said.
After the hearing, William Jury said that this conviction doesn’t bring closure to the family but has lifted a big pressure off their shoulders.
“We’ve been waiting 25 years for this,” Jury said. “I’m thankful that the Texas legal system didn’t forget about us.”
» The Monitor, McAllen, Texas