EDINBURG, Texas — Witness testimony has begun in the capital murder trial of Arturo Almaguer for the 1988 slaying of a Minnedosa couple during a robbery gone wrong.
Evan and Wilda Squires were wintering in Texas, living at Magic Valley RV Park in Weslaco in November 1988, when police officers found the couple shot to death inside their trailer home, court records state.
Soon after the couple’s slaying, the trail went cold for Weslaco police, but it became the catalyst for the creation of the department’s Crime Stoppers program the following year.
It wasn’t until May 2011 when authorities in Grand Rapids, Mich., arrested Almaguer on burglary charges and blood was drawn from him during the booking process. His DNA matched a sample collected from a pile of feces left at the Squires’ home that had been collected as evidence by Weslaco police.
Prosecutors have charged Almaguer with capital murder and are not seeking the death penalty. If convicted, he would face life in prison without parole.
On Tuesday morning, in the 206th state District Court, former Weslaco police officer Robert Kennedy took the stand to recall his work on the night of the double slaying.
Kennedy said he recalled the strong stench of fecal matter when he walked into the home.
He found the pile of feces left behind in one of the rooms inside the Squires’ trailer. The fecal matter had been covered with some jean shorts that had several brown stains, Kennedy said.
Defence attorney Rogelio Garza disputed the evidence, saying that Kennedy withheld information from his original report at the crime scene.
"Officer Kennedy, how come nowhere in your report does it say that the feces produced a strong odour," Garza asked.
Jurors also heard from Pat Pemelton, a retired Weslaco police officer who was one of the crime scene investigators on the night of the murder. Pemelton is responsible for gathering the DNA evidence that 23 years later her son, Det. Billy Pemelton, would use to link Almaguer to the murder.
Hidalgo County Assistant District Attorney Victoria Muñiz showed various crime scene photos as she asked the elder Pemelton about the case.
The pictures showed that Evan Squires had been shot near his right shoulder at close range, with the bullet exiting out his back. Wilda Squires suffered a gunshot wound to her upper torso and another in her midsection, with the bullets exiting her back.
Pemelton said that certain burn marks on the bodies showed that they had been shot at very close range. She was able to recover two bullet slugs from one of the walls and one from a phone book.
At the house, investigators found silverware in a box and a radio, leading them to believe that Almaguer and possibly another person rushed while leaving the house, Pemelton said.
» Ildefonso Ortiz, The Monitor, McAllen, Texas
The trial continues and the Brandon Sun will print updates from The Monitor as they’re available.