Murders of Raul and Brisenia Flores

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Murders of Raul and Brisenia Flores
Junior and Brisenia Flores.jpg
Raul and Brisenia Flores
LocationArivaca, Arizona, U.S.
Date30 May 2009
5 a.m. (UTC-7)
Attack type
Armed robbery
Home invasion
Premeditated murder
WeaponsFirearm
Deaths2
Injured2 (including one attacker)
PerpetratorsJason Eugene Bush
Shawna Forde
Albert Gaxiola

On May 30, 2009, 29-year-old Raul Flores Jr. and his daughter, nine-year-old Brisenia Ylianna Flores, were murdered during a home invasion in Arivaca, Arizona. The perpetrators were Shawna Forde, Jason Eugene Bush and Albert Gaxiola, all members of Forde's vigilante nativist group, Minutemen American Defense (MAD). Gina Gonzalez, the victims' wife and mother, was wounded but survived the attack after exchanging gunfire with the intruders, wounding Bush.

In 2011, all three assailants were convicted of murder. Forde and Bush were sentenced to death, while Gaxiola was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Attack[edit]

Shawna Forde and her accomplices gained entry into the Flores home by claiming they were officials looking for fugitives. The suspects had the expectation of finding money and drugs that could be sold to finance Forde's vigilante nativist group, Minutemen American Defense (MAD), which patrolled Arizona's border with Mexico. When they found no drugs, the intruders took inexpensive jewelry and fatally shot 29-year-old Raul Flores Jr. and his daughter, nine-year-old Brisenia Ylianna Flores.[1]

Gina Marie Gonzalez, the 31-year-old wife of Raul Flores and the mother of Brisenia, was in the home during the attack and was shot three times.[2] She survived when she pretended to be dead. After the assailants left the home, Gonzalez called 9-1-1 and armed herself with her husband's handgun. While Gonzalez was on the phone, the assailants re-entered the home, and Gonzalez exchanged fire with the attackers, wounding Bush in the leg. The killers then fled. Gonzalez identified two men and a white woman as the attackers. She identified Bush as the one who had murdered her daughter and her husband. The day after the murders, Bush's leg was treated by MAD member Chuck Stonex. Stonex later become a witness for the prosecution at trial.[3]

An early exchange within the 911 call was recorded as follows:

Gonzalez: They shot me and I pretended like I was dead. My daughter was crying. They shot her, too.

Operator: Are they still there, the people who, that shot them?

Gonzalez: They're coming back in! They're coming back in!

(Gunfire.)[4]

Brisenia was a third-grade student at the Sopori Elementary School in Amado, Arizona at the time of her death.[5] Another of the Flores's daughters, a 12-year-old, was at her grandmother's home in Sahuarita during the attack.[6]

Trial[edit]

Arriving at a death sentence for Forde was difficult, according to juror Angie Thomas. A picture of Brisenia presented during the trial was a significant factor in reaching the decision: "A little girl, with bright red fingernails; she's wearing a white T-shirt and turquoise-colored pajama bottoms. She's on a love seat. It's a perfect, innocent picture until you realize that half of her face has been blown off."[7] Gonzalez testified that her daughter was shot point-blank as the girl pleaded for her life.[7]

Forde, Bush, and Albert Gaxiola were all convicted of the murders.[8] Forde and Bush were sentenced to death, while Gaxiola was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole plus 54 years.

Assailants[edit]

Jason Eugene Bush[edit]

Jason Eugene "Gunny" Bush (born LaGrande, Oregon (1974-08-11) August 11, 1974 (age 47)[9]) of Meadview, Arizona, was MAD's National Director of Operations. Bush had previously been charged with the September 1997 execution-style killing of an Aryan Nation associate, Jonathan Bumstead, for supposedly committing the "crime" of "being a 'race-traitor'". That same year, Bush was imprisoned for car theft and for possession of a firearm, which was unlawful because of Bush's earlier felony conviction.[10][11]

After his release from prison in 2003, Bush moved to Sandpoint, Idaho, where he lived until 2007.[12] He is suspected in two additional killings that occurred in 1997. According to information provided to Washington state detectives, Bush is alleged to have shown up at the homes of acquaintances covered in blood and asked to be allowed to clean up, after he had "just finished taking care of some business." Detectives sought to find links to unresolved cases.

Bush, who was Forde's second-in-command, had ties to Aryan Nations, a white supremacist organization. After his arrest in the murders of Raul and Brisenia Flores, Bush was charged in June 2009 with the 1997 murder of Hector Lopez Partida in Wenatchee, Washington based on DNA evidence.[13] In April 2011, Bush was sentenced to death, and in May 2011, received another 78 years for other crimes.[14] Bush's appeal of his death sentence was rejected in 2018.

Shawna Forde[edit]

Shawna Forde was born (1967-12-06) December 6, 1967 (age 54).[15] In describing herself in 2007 when she ran unsuccessfully for a city council seat in Everett, Washington, Forde said that she had been a promoter of a grunge rock band and had worked as a youth counselor, aircraft factory worker, and as a cosmetologist.[16][17]

Forde had several run-ins with law enforcement prior to her arrest for the double murder. Court records show that she served time in juvenile lock-ups for repeated convictions involving theft, burglary, and prostitution. Forde had been married four times. In 1989, a male friend sought court protection from Forde, claiming that she had physically attacked him and threatened to hurt herself with a knife. In 2007, she was charged with theft. In January 2008, Forde accused members of a drug cartel of sexually assaulting and shooting her. Later, however, she suggested the culprits were criminal associates of her son. Forde's brother alleged that she fabricated the story, and authorities closed the case due to insufficient evidence.[18]

In 2007, Forde became involved in vigilante activities after she joined the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps (MCDC), which eventually expelled her.[19] In February 2007, she helped found and direct MAD, a splinter group from the MCDC, which questionably claimed "several thousand private members,"[20] although a former member claimed only fourteen remained following Forde's arrest for the Flores murders. Forde was posting updates to the website of Jim Gilchrist's Minuteman Project organization, which had her listed as their Border Operations Manager. Stonex said Forde intended to fund the purchase of a 40-acre (16 ha) property in southern Arizona, where she had intended to establish a base for her group's border operations.[21]

On February 14, 2011, Forde was found guilty of all eight counts for which she was prosecuted:[22] including two counts of the first degree murder of Raul and Brisenia, one count of attempted first degree murder of Gina Gonzalez, two counts of aggravated assault and one count each of burglary, armed robbery, and aggravated robbery.[23] Forde's lawyer, Eric Larsen, had said that Forde was not in the house when Flores and his daughter were murdered, so she should not be found guilty. Prosecutors said Forde was with the two men who broke into the Flores' home, and Gonzalez testified she was there. Pima County Deputy County Attorney Rick Unklesbay said, "She didn't put a gun to Brisenia's head ... but she was the one in charge. Because of that you must hold her accountable."[24]

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said that Forde planned and ordered the murder of Raul Flores. Although Gonzalez did not pick Forde out of a police lineup, police found Forde in possession of Gonzalez's jewelry, including her wedding ring, during a search after Forde's arrest. Police also presented text messages sent through Forde's phone and recorded conversations between Forde and the other suspects. The prosecutor said Forde had planned the crime for months in meetings out-of-state.[24] "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. On February 22, 2011, a Tucson jury convicted Forde of both murders and sentenced her to death.[25] She is one of three women out of 116 inmates on Arizona's death row.[26]

Albert Gaxiola[edit]

Albert Robert Gaxiola (born (1967-02-09) February 9, 1967 (age 55)[27]), of Arivaca, Arizona, is believed to have provided intelligence about drug activities in the area to the M.A.D.[28] Gaxiola had been imprisoned on marijuana charges from 1992 to 2000.[10] Gaxiola was found guilty of the murders and sentenced to life without parole plus 54 years.[29][30]

In the Media[edit]

The case has been featured on the Investigation Discovery program Deadly Women, appearing as the first story of the episode "Death Knock." True to the title of the program, the story is told from Forde's point of view.

See also[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Neiwert, David. And Hell Followed With Her: Crossing the Dark Side of the American Border (Nation Books, March 2013) p.  336.
  • Rosenthal, Lawrence, and Trost, Christine. Steep: The Precipitous Rise of the Tea Party University of California Press, Jul 15, 2012. p. 93.
  • Zeskind, Leonard. Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement From the Margins to the Mainstream.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Medrano, Lourdes (February 23, 2011). "Arizona justice: Shawna Forde death sentence a rebuke to border vigilantes". Christian Science Monitor.
  2. ^ "FOX News Bill O'Reilly lied about Brisenia Flores - Arizona Hispanic Republicans". Archived from the original on 2013-02-05. Retrieved 2012-03-29.
  3. ^ "Jason Bush Trial". Ricker's Radar Screen.
  4. ^ "Survivor: I pretended to be dead | Seattle News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News | KOMO News | News". KOMO News. 2009-06-17. Retrieved 2011-01-24.
  5. ^ Vanderpool, Tim (January 14, 2010). "Murder in the Desert". Tucson Weekly.
  6. ^ PMC (2008-07-28). "Alberto Gaxiola | Mexico Trucker Online". Mexicotrucker.com. Retrieved 2011-01-24.
  7. ^ a b Medrano, Lourdes (February 23, 2011). "Arizona justice: Shawna Forde death sentence a rebuke to border vigilantes". Christian Science Monitor.
  8. ^ "Arizona: Border Activist Sentenced to Death". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-02-22.
  9. ^ "B_inmate". Sheriff.pima.gov. Archived from the original on 2011-07-21. Retrieved 2011-01-24.
  10. ^ a b http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://www.sahuaritasun.com/articles/2009/06/17/news/00arivacanew617.txt[dead link]
  11. ^ North, Scott (2009-06-18). "HeraldNet.com - Local news: Murder suspect not the military veteran he claims to be". Enterprisenewspapers.com. Archived from the original on 2009-06-23. Retrieved 2011-01-24.
  12. ^ "Local News | Anti-immigration advocate held in '97 slaying | Seattle Times Newspaper". Seattletimes.nwsource.com. 2009-06-16. Retrieved 2011-01-24.
  13. ^ Clarridge, Christine (2009-06-17). "Local News | Former Everett woman's arrest rekindles interest in other cases | Seattle Times Newspaper". Seattletimes.nwsource.com. Retrieved 2011-01-24.
  14. ^ Smith, Kim. "Bush, on possible restitution: 'Get real! I'm going to death row'". Arizona Daily Star.
  15. ^ "F_inmate". Sheriff.pima.gov. Archived from the original on 2010-10-14. Retrieved 2011-01-24.
  16. ^ North, Scott (2009-02-22). "Local news: Trouble finds Shawna Forde". HeraldNet.com. Retrieved 2011-01-24.
  17. ^ "The Nativists | Southern Poverty Law Center". SPLCenter.org. Archived from the original on 2009-10-18. Retrieved 2011-01-24.
  18. ^ Anderson, Rick (2007-05-16). "Lethally Blonde – An expose of Shawna Forde". Seattle: Immigration Clearinghouse. Retrieved 2011-01-24.
  19. ^ Patrick Oppmann (2009-06-23). "Rogue Minutemen leader held in fatal home invasion". CNN.com. Retrieved 2011-01-24.
  20. ^ "Death Penalty Sought Against Border Vigilante Leaders for Alleged Murders". ADL.org. 8 September 2009. Archived from the original on 17 January 2011. Retrieved 2011-01-24.
  21. ^ Star, Kim Smith Arizona Daily. "Witness links Forde to alleged gunman in Arivaca killings". Arizona Daily Star. Retrieved 2016-03-16.
  22. ^ Hing, Julianne (14 February 2011). "Minuteman Vigilante Shawna Forde Convicted for Brisenia Flores' Murder". colorlines.com. ColorLines. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
  23. ^ "Arizona vigilante found guilty of murdering Latino man, daughter". CNN. 2011-02-15.
  24. ^ a b "Border Vigilante on Trial for Murder: Minuteman Shawna Forde Found Guilty in Home Invasion Killings". ABC. 2011-02-22.
  25. ^ "Arizona jury sentences border activist to death". SeattleTimes.nwsource.com. 2011-02-22. Retrieved 2011-02-22.
  26. ^ "Death Row Demographics". Arizona Department of Corrections. 12 April 2014. Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  27. ^ "G_inmate". Sheriff.pima.gov. Archived from the original on 2011-02-15. Retrieved 2011-01-24.
  28. ^ North, Scott (2009-06-13). "Local news: Activist Shawna Forde charged in double slaying". HeraldNet.com. Archived from the original on 2009-06-18. Retrieved 2011-01-24.
  29. ^ Smith, Kim (15 July 2011). "3rd defendant in Arivaca double-murder case avoids death row". tucson.com. Retrieved 8 August 2016. (subscription required)
  30. ^ Grijalva, Barbara (15 August 2011). "Third defendant gets life in deaths of man, 9-year-old daughter". ksla.com. KOLD via KSLA. Archived from the original on 23 September 2016. Retrieved 8 August 2016. TUCSON, AZ (KOLD) - He avoided the death penalty, but Albert Gaxiola will spend his life in prison for a deadly home invasion.

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