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Suspect's friend 'freaked out'

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By David Giuliani

Martin Chris Romero describes himself as “freaked out” after he found out that his friend reportedly fired the gunshot that killed a 6-year-old girl.

But he didn’t call the police. Instead, he says he kept it a secret from the authorities until investigators asked about the murder months later.

Romero testified on Monday during the preliminary hearing of David Levi Chavez, 507 New Mexico Ave., who has been charged with an open count of murder in the June 15 death of Jasmine Garcia.

In testimony at Magistrate Court, Romero said he was at a party on the night of the murder. He said his friend, Chavez, drank heavily. After smoking marijuana with Chavez, Romero said, he drove Chavez to the 300 block of Union Street, where Garcia’s uncle, Jeffrey Sanchez, lived. He said Chavez was holding a 12-gauge black shotgun.

On the way, Chavez talked about shooting into Sanchez’s house, Romero testified. Chavez and Sanchez had gotten into a fight near Las Vegas just a month earlier, Romero testified.

But Romero contended that he didn’t believe that Chavez would go through with firing the weapon.

“Every time we drink, nothing ever happens. I honestly didn’t think he was going to do it,” Romero said.

Romero testified that he dropped off Chavez on Union and started driving away. About 20 seconds later, he said he heard a single gunshot. Romero said he “blew” two stops signs and sped away from the area.

“I was freaked out,” he said.

He said he told his friend, Josh Pacheco, about what happened when they went fishing the next day. Later that day, Romero found out that Garcia was killed while sleeping in her bed. He said he was afraid because he knew who shot her.

Romero said he met with Chavez and told him about Garcia.

“He had a blank look in his face,” he said.

Romero said he asked to speak with Chavez’s mother by phone, and Romero then told the mother about what had happened. She cried, he said.

When Chavez’s attorney, Bob Gorence, asked Romero why he didn’t contact the authorities, he responded, “Put yourself in my situation. Would you have called the cops?”

On Sept. 11, Las Vegas police received a Crime Stoppers tip that Romero and Chavez were involved in Garcia’s killing.

Romero testified that in his first interview with officers last month, he lied that he didn’t know anything about the killing. But after a few minutes, he said he decided to tell the police the truth.

In testimony, Las Vegas police detective Roy Pacheco presented still photos from a Wal-Mart security camera showing Chavez and Josh Pacheco going into Wal-Mart the evening before Garcia’s killing. Chavez went to the restroom, while Josh Pacheco is seen buying slugs for a shotgun at the gun counter. Minutes later, according to the evidence, the two are seen leaving the store.

Prosecutors presented evidence showing that Pacheco sold Chavez a 12-gauge black shotgun not long before.

Police have never found the weapon in the crime.

On cross examination, Pacheco testified that there was no premeditation to kill the girl.

In his closing statement, District Attorney Richard Flores said Jeffrey Sanchez was on Chavez’s mind the night of the killing.

“One gunshot killed Jasmine Garcia. How many gunshots does Chris Romero testify there were? One gunshot. That’s beyond coincidence,” the prosecutor said.

He acknowledged that the case largely depends on Romero. “There’s no denying it,” he said.

But he said Romero had nothing to gain by pointing the finger at Chavez.

However, Gorence, in his closing statement, said the state’s case depends on two non-police witnesses, Romero and Josh Pacheco, neither of whom were eyewitnesses. And the police had no forensic evidence linking Chavez to the crime, Gorence said.

Gorence questioned whether Josh Pacheco was competent to testify, given the number of narcotics he was taking. As for Romero, Gorence said, “Supposedly he wanted to come clean, but he never called anyone about it.”

At the end of the four-hour hearing, Magistrate Judge Chris Najar said he found that there was sufficient evidence to bind the case over to District Court for trial.

Gorence asked the judge to reduce Chavez’s bail from a $2 million cash-only bond and put Romero on home detention. The district attorney opposed the request.

The judge decided against the defense request — to applause from the victim’s family members on one side of the courtroom.

Asked afterward whether authorities would charge Romero and Josh Pacheco, Flores said prosecutors haven’t decided yet and would see how the Chavez case progresses.