'Minutemen' Vigilante Shawna Forde Guilty in Deadly Arizona Home Invasion

Shawna Forde convicted in home invasion that left father, girl dead.

February 14, 2011, 7:18 PM

Feb. 14, 2011— -- Shawna Forde, a border vigilante, was convicted today of two counts of murder for orchestrating a home invasion that left a 9-year-old Arizona girl and her father dead.

Prosecutors said Forde planned the home invasion to rob Raul "Junior" Flores, who she thought was a drug dealer, to fund her border watch group. There were rumors that Flores, 29, had a stash of $4,000 in cash in the house.

Flores and his daughter Bresenia were both killed in the May 2009 attack at their Arivaca, Ariz., home. His wife, Gina Gonzalez, was shot three times, but survived by playing dead.

In addition to the first-degree murder charges, Forde, 43, founder of Minutemen American Defense, was found guilty of one count of attempted first-degree murder; one count of burglary in the first-degree; one count of aggravated assault, serious physical injury; one count of aggravated assault, deadly weapon/dangerous instrument; one count of armed robbery; and one count of aggravated armed robbery.

The Pima County Superior Court jury came back with a verdict after it deliberated for seven hours over two days.

The sentencing phase of the trial begins Tuesday. Forde could face the death penalty.

Forde's lawyer had argued that the woman was not in the house when Flores and his daughter were murdered, so she should not be found guilty.

But prosecutors said Forde was with the two men who broke into the Flores home, and Gonzalez testified that she was there.

"She didn't put a gun to Brisenia's head ... but she was the one in charge," Pima County Deputy County Attorney Rick Unklesbay said in closing arguments. "Because of that you must hold her accountable."

Gonzalez, who played dead in the kitchen after being shot three times in the leg, identified one of the three suspects as Forde.

Minuteman Shawna Forde Found Guilty in Home Invasion Killings

"She's walking in and she's got a smile on her face. She looks up ... and walks back out," Gonzalez told the jury.

The woman testified in chilling detail about seeing her husband and daughter killed.

"He's all out of bullets by then because he used them on me and Junior," she said of one of the alleged gunmen who had shot and killed Flores, 29, before turning the barrel on their crying daughter, Brisenia. "He stands here and he loads the gun right in front of her."

"And is this something you can see happening?" Pima County Deputy Attorney Kellie Johnson asked.

"I just hear her telling him, 'Please don't shoot me, please don't shoot me,'" Gonzalez said.

Then, Brisenia was shot in the head.

Two other suspects -- Jason Bush, a known white-supremacist, and Albert Gaxiola, a convicted drug dealer -- are in custody awaiting trials later this spring. Like Forde, both men have pleaded not guilty.

In a 911 call recording played in court, Gonzalez could be heard using her husband's handgun to fire back at the men after they had left and returned, continuing to ransack the house.

"They're coming back in, they're coming back in," she told dispatcher Tanya Remsburg. Several rounds of gunshots can be heard on the recording. "Get the f*** out of here, get the f*** out of here."

Gonzalez said that the family had been roused from their sleep by a trio dressed in camouflage, claiming to be law enforcement officers looking for fugitives.

"They told us that somebody had escaped jail or something, they wanted to come in and look at my house," she said on the call. "And they just shot my husband and they shot my daughter and they shot me. Oh, my God, ma'am, I can't believe this is happening. ... I can't believe they killed my family."

Lying in the kitchen, bleeding from gunshot wounds to her leg, she described the suspects as a white male whose face was painted black, a six-foot-tall Mexican man and a "shorter fat woman."

In the courtroom Jan. 26, Gonzalez pointed to Forde and said she looked like the female suspect. Previously, however, she had failed to pick Forde out of a police lineup.

Minuteman Shawna Forde Found Guilty in Home Invasion Killings

"Essentially, this case is a doughnut, a lot of circumstantial evidence all around," Forde's attorney, Eric Larsen, had said in his opening statement. "There is a hole, and that hole is Shawna Forde not being there at that home on May 30."

But prosecutors said there was evidence from Gonzalez and other witnesses that linked her to the crime.

They presented text messages sent through Forde's phone and recorded conversations between Forde and other suspects. He said Forde had planned the crime for months with her fellow suspects, in meetings out-of-state.

"Even if she didn't pull the trigger … make no mistake about it. She's the one who planned the events. She's the one who recruited people to do this," Unklesbay said.

Prosecutors also said police recovered from Forde several items of Gonzalez's personal jewelry, including her wedding ring, during a search after her arrest.

ABC affiliate KGUN-TV in Tucson, Ariz., and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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