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Monday, October 21, 2013 - 12:21pm
El Paso, TX (KDBC) — UPDATE: Roger Garrett is guilty of murder. The jury handed down the verdict Monday night just before 8:00 in the cold case murder trial.
The jury is sequestered overnight and the punishment phase begins Tuesday at 9 a.m.
Assistant District Attorney Kyle Myers explained to the jury that whether Roger Garrett acted alone, or aided or attempted to aid his mother, Lisbeth Garrett, in killing Army Major Chester Garrett, they are both guilty of murder.
Myers also reminded the jury that Roger had no alibi for the time the murder was committed. The murder is believed to have happened between 8 p.m. - 10:30 p.m. the night of January 3, 1977.
Defense attorney Matthew Dekoatz began his closing arguments by introducing his co-counsel, then introduced his client by placing his hand on Roger Garrett's back and said, "This is Roger Garrett, he loved his dad."
Dekoatz then proceeded to review the list of witnesses that were called, including Roger's ex-wife, Theresa Heffelfinger and her friend Debra Drake Rodriguez.
Rodriguez was the first witness who testified that Roger confessed to her in 1978 that he and his mother had acted together to kill his stepfather. She said Roger was trying to impress her with the story in an attempt to initiate a romantic relationship.
Theresa Heffelfinger testified that Roger Garrett told her a similar story in 1992 during an argument in which he broke down after she asked him for a divorce.
Dekoatz argued that there is a lack of evidence, including a lack of DNA, linking Roger Garrett to the murder.
Relatives of Roger Garrett were seen wiping away tears in the courtroom.
Defense attorney Ruben Morales then tried to discredit Patrick Garrett's testimony, Roger Garrett's half-brother, and said Patrick was the driving force behind the trial, "We know he (Patrick) is a liar. He said it himself." Morales was referring to the company that Patrick Garrett tried to start up that was going to be called "Hire a Liar." Morales said, "He's trying to sell you a lie, just like the company he tried to start up."
Patrick Garrett testified that his half -rother confessed to him at their mother's El Paso home in 1990. According to Patrick's wife's testimony, during an argument that day their mother, Lisbeth Garrett, said, "I must have raised a bunch of idiots." She testified that Roger Garrett's response was, "No, Mom, you raised a bunch of killers."
Patrick sat in the courtroom Monday holding a rosary.
Morales also tried to discredit the testimony from Rodriguez and Heffelfinger, and referred to them as a "jilted ex-wife and the best friend of a jilted ex-wife." Debra Rodriguez introduced Theresa Heffelfinger to Roger Garrett in 1978.
"She's making it all up. It's a complete lie," Morales said of Rodriguez's testimony, and added that testimony from Chester Garrett's girlfriend "demolished" the state's timeline of when the death happened.
Chester Garrett's girlfriend testified that she spoke with Chester on the phone at 8:30 p.m. for about 20 minutes that night while he was at the Bachelor Officer Quarters, where he was living during the time he was separated from his wife.
Morales continued to argue that there was a lack of evidence. "They (state) are the ones who have to prove the case and they're failing miserably," he said, and ended his closing arguments by saying, "Find Roger Garrett not guilty."
Assistant District Attorney Denise Butterworth then began her closing arguments. She argued against the defense's theory that Rodriguez and Heffelfinger worked together to "frame" Roger Garrett. "Their stories are reasonable because they are the truth," Butterworth said, and added, "They (defense) have to convince you these women are lying because if they're not lying, Roger Garrett is guilty of murder."
Butterworth went on to explain to the jury that in order for the defense's theory to be true, then it would have to be a "giant conspiracy" between Roger Garret's half-brother, ex-wife and Debra Rodriguez.
Butterworth also reminded the jury of the physical evidence. She said all three witness testimonies told a similar story that Chester Garrett was lured to the family home and was attacked from behind. Butterworth said El Paso County Medical Examiner Dr. Juan Contin's testimony regarding the autopsy showed Chester Garrett's injuries were consistent with the witness testimony.
According to Butterworth, a divorce had been filed at the time of Chester Garrett's death. His wife, Lisbeth Garrett, was aware that he had a girlfriend. During his testimony, Roger Garrett said he and his mother found a woman in his stepfather's room at the Bachelor Officer Quarters on Fort Bliss. Roger said the three of them then drove to a baseball game to confront his stepfather, and that Lisbeth gave her husband an ultimatum. Roger said his stepfather chose his family over his girlfriend.
However, Chester Garrett's girlfriend testified that she spent Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Eve with Chester Garrett before he was killed. She said Chester Garrett told her he was taking her and her family to Italy, where he was going to be stationed.
Speaking on Lisbeth's possible motive, Butterworth said, "She (Lisbeth) can be divorced from a military officer, or she can be the widow of a military officer."
Butterworth then finished her closing arguments.
The jury began deliberating at 11 a.m.
Stay with KTSM.com for updates once the verdict is in.