Father on Trial for Killing Drunken Driver Who Caused Sons’ Deaths

By JUAN A. LOZANO | August 27, 2014

The attorney for a Texas father accused of fatally shooting a drunken driver who caused an accident that killed his two sons argued with investigators Monday that none of the evidence they have presented at trial directly links his client to the murder.

Investigators testified Monday they found a gun holster and ammunition in the home of David Barajas, who is accused of going to his house, retrieving a gun and then shooting 20-year-old Jose Banda in December 2012 near Alvin minutes after Banda plowed into a vehicle that Barajas and his two sons had been pushing on a rural road.

Twelve-year-old David Jr. and 11-year-old Caleb were killed. Barajas’ truck had run out of gas about 100 yards from the family’s home.

While the murder weapon was never found, prosecutors have suggested that the holster and ammunition were evidence that Barajas owned a weapon. Barajas’ lawyer, Sam Cammack, has denied his client ever owned a gun.

Chris Anderson, a former investigator with the Brazoria County Sheriff’s Office, testified that the day after the accident, he searched Barajas’ mobile home and found the empty gun holster and a box of ammunition for a .357 caliber handgun.

Cammack asked Anderson how the holster tied Barajas to the crime if no gun was found.

Anderson said tests showed a bullet fragment found in Banda’s car could have possibly come from a .357 caliber weapon and the holster could hold such a handgun.

Cammack said tests showed the bullet fragment could have also come from a 9mm handgun or a .38 caliber weapon.

Dominick Sanders, the lead investigator with the Brazoria County Sheriff’s Office, told jurors that the search of Barajas’ home failed to find any evidence “that made a direct link from (Barajas) to the crime scene.”

Later, Cammack asked Sanders if he could tell jurors who shot Banda. Sanders said he didn’t have any direct knowledge on who did it.

“What in the heck are we doing here?” Cammack said.

Another investigator, Kent Nielson, testified he found at Barajas’ house a home security system that had a missing hard drive. Investigators have said security cameras outside of Barajas’ home could possibly have captured video of someone entering or leaving the home after the crash.

But when questioned by Cammack, Nielson said he didn’t know if the security system was working on the night of the accident.

Cammack has focused his efforts at Barajas’ trial, which began last week, on suggesting that Banda could have been shot by Banda’s cousin or his half brother, who witnessed the crash but later told investigators they fled the scene and didn’t call 911. Sanders said evidence never suggested Banda’s cousin or half brother were suspects. Banda’s cousin and his half brother testified last week they did not shoot Banda.

Testimony was to resume Tuesday.

Legal experts have said the case could be difficult to prove given the lack of hard evidence: no weapon was recovered, no witnesses identified Barajas as the shooter and gunshot residue tests done on Barajas came back negative. If convicted, Barajas faces up to life in prison.

A bigger challenge for prosecutors could be overcoming sympathy for Barajas. Many residents in Alvin, 30 miles southeast of Houston, have supported Barajas. Some have said they might have done the same thing in a similar situation.

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