Defense questions investigators about cognitive status of trooper’s accused killer

dfwnewsa | January 18, 2024 | 0 | East Texas News , South Texas News

Defense questions investigators about cognitive status of trooper’s accused killer

EDINBURG — Texas Ranger Billy James “B.J.” Hill, the lead investigator, remained on the stand Wednesday afternoon to offer perspective on the events that transpired on April 6, 2019, as well as the following day.

Prosecution passed the witness to the defense, who asked Hill about his experience as a Texas Ranger at the time of the shooting. He said that he had been a Texas Ranger for 6 months prior to the shooting. He informed the court that just weeks prior, he had been told that he would take the lead on the next big investigation — which happened to be Trooper Moises Sanchez’s shooting.

He also clarified his role throughout the investigation, including his involvement in the vehicular crash that occurred near the intersection of 10th Street and Freddy Gonzalez Drive prior to Sanchez’s shooting. 

Hill explained that he didn’t actually visit the crash site until a few days later. He delegated another trooper to gather information about Godinez’s 2015 Ford F150 while the McAllen Police Department conducted the actual investigation in the crash.

Defense attorneys grilled Hill about Godinez’s medical records, including the results of a blood test taken after his arrest. Hill said that he did obtain the medical records, but he did not look at them.

“I secured those records for the court, but it was not an element of this crime,” Hill said, referring to Sanchez’s shooting.

The defense also asked Hill about Godinez’s cognitive state during the interrogation, during which Godinez claimed to have been drinking all day with friends prior to the crash and the shootings. Hill said that Godinez was in fact coherent during the interrogation, and that he would not have taken his statement if he had appeared to be incoherent.

The prosecution then called Texas Highway Patrol Lieutenant Tony Rocha, who was a Texas Ranger stationed in Brownsville on April 6, 2019. Rocha said that he was called to the scene as a negotiator should the suspect have barricaded himself. 

Rocha became the lead investigator of the shooting between Godinez and two Edinburg Police Department investigators hours after Sanchez’s shooting. He recalled arriving at the scene after 1 a.m. and doing a walkthrough with Hill while other Rangers took pictures.

Some of those pictures were presented to the court, showing the unmarked Edinburg police Toyota Sequoia driven by the police investigators, the Smith & Wesson .357 magnum revolver with three rounds in the cylinder found in the vacant lot on Ida Street, as well as some spent casings also found in the area.

Investigator Tony Rocha presents a weapon allegedly used to shoot at law enforcement including Sanchez to the jury as Victor Godinez stands trial for the death of Texas State Trooper Moises Sanchez in the 389th state District Count on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024, in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

Prosecutors presented a box with three casings and the weapon inside to the court before Rocha continued with his testimony.

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He said that remained on scene until a little after sunrise, after which he and Hill went to the hospital to pick up Godinez and take him to the McAllen DPS office to be interrogated.

Like Hill, Rocha said that he would not have taken a statement from Godinez if he had appeared incoherent or intoxicated. During the interrogation, Rocha took photographs of Godinez to document his injuries. 

Those photographs were presented to the court, along with another set of photographs taken later that afternoon when Rocha returned to the scene of the crime.

The first set of photographs showed Godinez still wearing a hospital gown. Among the injuries shown were a red bruise on his forehead over his left eye, and his bandaged right abdomen where he sustained a gunshot wound during his shootout with the Edinburg Police investigators. Rocha said that Godinez did not complain about his wounds during the interrogation.

A picture of a bullet casing found at the scene is shown on a monitor as Victor Godinez stands trial for the death of Texas State Trooper Moises Sanchez in the 389th state District Count on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024, in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

The other set of photographs showed photographs of a projectile inside of a napkin that had been found by a homeowner on Ida Street. The homeowner had initially picked up the bullet with a napkin and thrown it in the trash before retrieving it and showing it to police. Another showed a bullet fragment found on a flatbed trailer in a driveway.

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Rocha also recalled finding a speedloader in a residential backyard on Blackhawk Street.

The third and final witness called Wednesday afternoon was Carlos Vela, a DPS crime lab fluorescent scientist whose work involves processing evidence submitted by law enforcement to find fingerprints.

Vela said that he was unable to get prints from the Smith & Wesson .357 magnum revolver or a Budweiser bottle that were submitted for his examination. He was only able to develop a suitable print from one of the many spent casings and a Simply Orange bottle, which matched with Godinez’s fingerprints.


PREVIOUS COVERAGE:

Edinburg man accused of DPS trooper’s shooting legally bought alleged murder weapon

 

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