The capital murder trial for Gabriel Armandariz is underway in Tarrant County.
On Tuesday Armandariz pleaded not guilty to killing his two sons back in April 2011. Opening statements started early Tuesday morning, prosecutors started with describing Armandariz's relationship to the two boys' mother, Lauren Smith.
Prosecutors told the jury that Armandariz had a history of domestic violence, and jealousy. They say the relationship between the two resulted in the births of Gatlin Joe Armandariz and Luke Gerald Armandariz. However, what started off good turned quickly into abuse, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors said Smith suffered both physical and mental abuse from Armandariz throughout the relationship. Smith eventually reached a breaking point where Prosecutors said she left Armandariz with her boys and moved to Sudan, Texas.
Prosecutors described that the boys were taken by their father, after Armandariz convincing Smith she would able to take Luke with her, but Armandariz would not give her back Gatlin. They said eventually Armandariz went to visit Smith with Gatlin in Sudan, only to take off with both boys and head to Wichita Falls. Prosecutors said Smith described their relationship as being under Armandariz's control, and eventually ended with Armandariz taking the lives of two-year-old Gatlin, and 8-month-old Luke.
Prosecutors say the affidavit stated the cause of death for Luke was hanging, and the cause of death for Gatlin was strangling. Armandariz also sent a picture to Smith of Luke hanging by his neck.
It was later determined that the device used to hang the boy and strangled Gatlin was the same rope type substance found in his diaper bag, according to prosecutors.
However, the defense painted a very different picture of Armandariz. The defense stated that Amandariz was born with a brain defect, and in his early teen years suffered from two blows to the head. The defense said that those incidents, along with his current condition, caused him further impairment.
They said he was a good father, and that no one loved the boys more than Armandariz., but his mental illness caused him to deteriorate in a stressful situation, according to his defense attorneys.
The first witness called to the stand was the defendant's sister, Anita Armandariz. Anita testified saying that on multiple occasions she witnessed both physical and verbal abuse to Smith, by her brother.
Anita said the two briefly lived with her, only to be kicked out about two months later. She said her relationship with her brother slowly faded, and after witnessing the abuse, she decided to cut him out of her life. For a little longer than six months before the boy's death she did not speak with Armandariz, and had little communication with Smith. The defense made a final pass on the witness after determining that Anita would be called back to the stand later in the trial.
The second witness was a legal aid Smith had sought out to get her boys back from Armandariz. Kathrine Goebel was called to the stand as a witness to the State.
On the stand, Goebel said just about a month prior to the boys' death she was trying to serve Armandariz papers. Those papers gave Smith a recommendation for full custody of the children, file for common law divorce from Armandariz, and a restraining order.
Goebal attempted to serve him papers two weeks prior to the first scheduled court hearing on March 28, 2011. However, despite attempts, they were not able to locate Armandariz and no papers were ever served.
However, Goebel said it didn't stop there. She re-filed the paperwork and sought another court date. That new date was for Monday, April 18, 2011. Four days after the boys were killed on April 13, 2011.
The defense acted aggressive toward this witness, stating that Goebel overlooked some major factors of the potential case. The defense said Goebel overlooked some of Smith's failings as a parent. One of those being the loss of custody of her daughter she had prior to Gatlin and Luke with another man.
The defense said not only did Smith lose custody, but also she was only granted special supervised visitation rights to her daughter. They also noted other occasions when she failed to follow the law, one instance being when she took off with her daughter without the permission of her daughter's father.
A law enforcement officer in Lamb County also took the stand. He said it was on one of his shifts that Smith received the text message picture of Luke hanging. The officer said Smith brought the photo in seeking help. That's when he started an investigation. An investigation that eventually landed in Young County where Armandariz had been living at a sibling's house in Graham, Texas. It was the same home where investigators said they found the two boys under the home wrapped in a tarp, according to prosecutors.