Threats said to continue after shootingFelipe Estrada wiped away tears Wednesday as his ex-girlfriend testified about the phone conversation they had just minutes after Estrada allegedly shot her ex-husband, Juan Garza, seven times in the West Acres 14 Cinema parking lot.
By: By Mike Nowatzki, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
FARGO — Felipe Estrada wiped away tears Wednesday as his ex-girlfriend testified about the phone conversation they had just minutes after Estrada allegedly shot her ex-husband, Juan Garza, seven times in the West Acres 14 Cinema parking lot.
“I remember I asked him why he did it and told him that he ruined his life,” DeShawn Stodola said.
But Stodola said she didn’t recall what Estrada told her during that same conversation on June 5.
Assistant Cass County State’s Attorney Kara Schmitz Olson tried to refresh her memory, asking Stodola if she recalled telling police that Estrada said, “Is this what you wanted?” and “Cause I’m sick of that (expletive), and if he’s not dead I’m going to get people to come up from Mexico and kill him.”
Stodola said she didn’t remember.
On cross-examination, Stodola did recall what Garza yelled at Estrada in the parking lot before the shooting. “He said that he was going to (expletive) him up,” Stodola said.
It was one of several key pieces of testimony heard by jurors on the second day of Estrada’s attempted murder trial, expected to last at least through Friday. His attorney, Steven Mottinger, is arguing Estrada acted in self-defense.
Stodola said she and Garza divorced in 2006, the same year she and her five children — four by Garza — moved into Estrada’s Dilworth home.
Garza didn’t like the way Estrada disciplined his kids, and he sent Estrada threatening text messages, which Estrada reported to Dilworth police, Stodola said, later acknowledging she couldn’t be certain Garza had sent the messages. Garza testified Tuesday that his 12-year-old daughter sent them.
After Stodola and Estrada broke up in early 2011, her oldest daughter, who was 14 at the time, continued living with Estrada.
On the morning of the shooting, the daughter had an argument with Estrada and ran away, ending up with Stodola at her mom’s apartment south of the theater.
Stodola said Estrada came over and yelled for the daughter and knocked on the door, but she didn’t let him in. When Stodola later called Garza to ask him for gas money, she mentioned Estrada’s visit to the apartment, she said.
Mottinger focused on testimony that Garza had asked his friend Charles Roskom to watch out for Estrada’s pickup when Garza and Stodola left the apartment in her van to go get gas.
Roskom said he saw the silver pickup pull out from across the street and head in the same direction as Garza and Stodola. He said he called Garza to let him know and followed the pickup into the theater lot.
Stodola said Garza was cutting through the theater lot on their way to the gas station when he got a phone call from someone and said, “Yes, he drives a silver pickup,” and turned around in the lot.
Garza and Estrada stopped at the same time in the lot and Garza stepped out of the van first, yelling at Estrada, Stodola said. When Estrada got out of the pickup with a gun, Garza ran back to the van and Estrada fired the first shot, she said.
Both she and Garza took off running toward the theater, she said. She said she saw Garza collapse on the sidewalk before she made it inside, but not before a bullet flew by her head and broke one of the theater windows.
“I tasted the gunpowder in my mouth,” she said.
Mottinger tried to point out inconsistencies in testimony from Roskom and his passenger, Lamont Nelson, who temporarily subdued Estrada before Estrada fled the scene and was eventually arrested near Horace. Stodola, Roskom and Nelson all testified that Estrada’s handgun was the only gun they saw at the scene.
Estrada, 45, faces an aggravated assault charge for allegedly pistol-whipping Roskom in the head during the scuffle, fracturing his skull. He also faces two counts of reckless endangerment for shots fired at Stodola and the theater.
Mike Nowatzki is a reporter
at The Forum of Fargo-
Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.