State’s attorney Kimberly Gonzalez talks to the jury during closing arguments in the murder trial of… – Tom Reel, Staff / San Antonio Express-News State’s attorney Ana Ochoa Nelson gestures to describe a wrapping around the victim’s neck during cl… – Tom Reel, Staff / San Antonio Express-News Geologist Maureen Bottrell takes the witness stand and examines the contents of an evidence bag Tues… – Provided by Hearst Communications, Inc Crime scene investigator Joe Rodriguez examines a shovel that was in an evidence bag Tuesday May 8, … – Provided by Hearst Communications, Inc
State’s attorney Kimberly Gonzalez talks to the jury during closing arguments in the murder trial of Gregorio Barrera on May 9, 2018.
A San Antonio, Texas man convicted last week of killing his brother in 2016 allegedly over the family home and burying his body in a shallow grave in the dunes of the Padre Island National Seashore, was sentenced Monday to 50 years in prison.
It took a Bexar County jury a little over two hours to sentence Gregorio Barrera, 50, in the death of Andres Barrera, 46, whose remains were found Sept. 25, 2016, in Kleberg County on the north shore.
In a tearful victim impact statement, Martha Barrera told her brother Gregorio Barrera that his fatal decision “affected our lives, our kids,” and that things would never be the same.
“We were supposed to look out for each other after mom and dad died,” Martha Barrera sobbed. “Who gave you the right to kill our little brother? He never hurt anybody.”
Officials from the counties of Kleberg and Nueces testified in the guilt-innocence phase that the remains had been buried in 3 feet of sand in the dunes and had been there for several weeks because his internal organs had decomposed and bones were missing due toanimal activity.
The men’s sisters testified that Andres Barrera was living in an apartment while he renovated the family home in the 8700 block of Sage Brush on the Northeast Side. Gregorio Barrera lived at the home but his brother had him evicted after the men fought.
Before the state rested its case in the punishment phase, which began Monday morning, the jury heard from two San Anonio police officers who testified they seized from Gregorio Barrera’s backyard a stolen lawnmower that belonged to his neighbor and numerous tools in the garage that were not his. Prosecutors also introduced his arrest record, which included a DWI charge and a theft offense.
Defense attorney Cornelius Cox told the jury in his closing argument that he did not agree with their verdict of guilt because he felt the state did not prove that his client killed his brother, but that he respected them for it.
“The community says you should send a message,” Cox told the jury. “The problem with that approach is that this is not just a numbers game,” regarding years of punishment.
Referencing the 1970s novel “Future Shock,” by Alvin Toffler, Cox equated his client’s conviction and potential life sentence as relegating him to be in a “throw-away society,” which is detailed in Chapter 4 of the book.
“I would hate to think that what we would do with humans when things go wrong, they make poor judgments, or do certain things as a society, we would just cast them away,” he said.
Cox did not throw a number out for sentencing, but reminded the jurors that his client cared for his dying mother.
“I hope that you would reach a fair and just sentence,” he told the jury.
In her closing argument, prosecutor Kimberly Gonzalez told the jury it was ironic that Cox would reference a “throw-away society.”
“He (Cox) wants to talk about a throw-away society. That’s just what he (Gregorio Barrera) did to his little brother,” Gonzalez told the jury.
Referencing the biblical story of Cain and Abel, Gonzalez quoted scripture: “The Lord says, ‘What have you done? Your brother’s blood calls out to me from the grave,’ and he wants to bring up a throw-away society,” she told the court.
“He (the defendant) threw him (the victim) out there like nothing,” Gonzalez told the jury. “Life is what you get when you murder your brother, steal from your neighbors and dump your brother like nothing.”
The jury began deliberating shortly before 1 p.m.
Gregorio Barrera had faced five to 99 years or life in prison. He will have to serve at least 25 years of his sentence before he is eligible for parole. The case was heard in the 186th state District Court, presided by Judge Jefferson Moore.
Elizabeth Zavala is a San Antonio Express-News staff writer. Read more of her stories here. | firstname.lastname@example.org | @elizabeth2863