EDINBURG, Texas — Jurors on Monday sent a 46-year-old man to prison for life without parole after he murdered a Minnedosa couple in Weslaco in 1988.
Arturo Almaguer was convicted on three separate counts of capital murder and faces three life terms in prison after robbing and slaying Evan Squires, 70, and his wife Wilda Squires, 65, on Nov. 13, 1988.
The Squires had been living in Weslaco at the Magic Valley RV Park when Almaguer and at least one other person broke in to steal various items from their home, court records state.
During the robbery, Almaguer fired a revolver several times at the couple, leaving them in a pool of blood inside their RV, prosecutors said during the trial.
Soon after the murder, Almaguer, then 21 years old, fled and the case went cold until May 2011.
That’s when police in Grand Rapids, Mich., arrested him on burglary charges and drew his blood during the jail booking process. The blood matched a DNA sample collected from fecal matter left on the Squires’ floor on the night of the murder.
Prosecutors said Almaguer and the other robber — whose name hasn’t been disclosed — broke into the RV, ransacked the place and then stopped in the vehicle’s small bathroom.
While he was still in the bathroom, the Squires woke up and confronted Almaguer, who shot them both.
Following the gunfire, Almaguer continued to defecate on the floor of the RV and in his pants, which he left at the crime scene.
Evidence presented at trial showed Almaguer left his shorts on top of the feces, taking clothing from the house and using his shirt to wipe himself as he ran away from the crime scene.
The evidence was presented during the testimony of former Weslaco police detective Pat Pemelton, who processed the crime scene on the night of the murder.
The collection of DNA wasn’t a common practice in 1988, but Pemelton collected a fecal sample from the scene that was stored for more than 20 years and submitted to a government database.
When Almaguer’s blood gave a match, Weslaco police Det. William Pemelton — Pat’s son — was the one who travelled to Michigan to bring Almaguer back to the Rio Grande Valley for prosecution.
Bringing a case to trial 25 years after the crime proved to be a challenge, as not all witnesses had clear memories of the crime or had died, said Assistant District Attorney Victoria Muñiz.
Defence attorney Rogelio Guerra declined to comment on the case.
The sentencing phase of the trial is set to start today, when members of the Squires family will get an opportunity to address Almaguer about the impact that the murder had on them.
Almaguer will also be given an opportunity to speak during the hearing, but because he was convicted of capital murder, his fate has already been set — life in prison.
» The Monitor, McAllen, Texas