One of the three co-defendants on trial this week for capital murder in the April 18, 2010, fatal shooting of Mohammad Hashemi is asserting a “Francisco Soto” is responsible for an Ennis businessman’s death.
Sheriff’s Lt. Jason Westmoreland testified Thursday that Eric Maldonado, 22, of Ennis said “Soto” shot Hashemi, but said he was unable to locate anyone of that name or alias during the course of his investigation.
Maldonado put the blame on the as-yet unidentified “Soto” in a written statement he gave Westmoreland after being taken into custody April 19, 2010, the day after Hashemi was killed.
In the statement, which was read during Thursday’s testimony, Maldonado said “Soto” had approached him about doing a robbery about a month before Hashemi was killed – and borrowed a gun from him the day before the incident.
“Francisco said he shot (Hashemi) with my .380 (caliber),” wrote Maldonado, who, along with Ruben Hernandez, 19, of Garrett and Fernando Juarez, 18, of Palmer, is on trial in 40th District Court, Judge Bob Carroll presiding.
Maldonado’s statement implies the shooting was an accident by saying “Soto” told him “all he was going to do was scare (Hashemi.)”
If convicted, the trio would receive automatic sentences of life in prison without parole.
On Monday, the first day of testimony, a fourth co-defendant, 16-year-old Isaiah Gonzalez of Ennis, told jurors it was Maldonado who fired the .380, killing Hashemi with a single gunshot wound to the chest.
In return for his testimony, Gonzalez, who is not on trial at this time, is expected to enter into a plea agreement with prosecutors on charges of murder, aggravated robbery and arson and concurrent sentences of 45 years, 45 years and 20 years, respectively.
Another witness testified Wednesday he heard conversations between Maldonado, Juarez and Gonzalez in which Maldonado was identified as the shooter.
Under cross-examination by Maldonado’s attorney, Dan Cox, that witness denied being “Soto” and said he hadn’t taken part in any robbery. He knew details of the offense because Maldonado, Juarez and Gonzalez had talked about it in front of him, he said.
Cox has queried other witnesses about “Soto;” however, those who have been asked have not known anyone of that name.
In his testimony, Westmoreland said Maldonado did cooperate with authorities by leading them to Hashemi’s body, which was recovered from a wooded area off of a tractor-trailer parking lot at Ennis Paint on Old Highway 75.
Westmoreland provided additional details about evidence collected during the course of the investigation, including an owner’s manual and serial number that matched up with the .380 caliber gun recovered from a house where Maldonado’s relatives lived. Also recovered at the same location were a MAC 11 and a sawed-off shotgun, Westmoreland said, adding that three cell phones belonging to the co-defendants were recovered from the vehicle in which they were arrested in Irving the day after the incident.
Among the documentation gathered by the sheriff’s office and entered into evidence is a firearms transaction record dated April 2, when Maldonado purchased the weapon, and cell phone records for the three co-defendants, Westmoreland said.
The trial is expected to continue into next week.
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