Mother of Victims Takes the Stand at Armandariz Trial
The mother of the two murder victims, Lauren Smith was back on the stand Wednesday. The prosecution also introduced ten voicemails to the jury. Those voicemails were all sent to Smith from Armandariz.
Those voicemails were left the day before, and the day of the two murders. Many of those voicemails that played contained the voices of the two baby boys along with that of Armandariz's.
On April 13th, the day of the two boys' murder, 2-year-old Gatlin was heard calling out his mom's name. But as that day went on, voicemails continued to come across Smith's cell phone, and the voices of the two boys were no longer on the messages.
“We love you, and we'll see you,” said Armandariz in a voicemail. Armandariz also said other things in that message, but it was very muffled.
That message was one of the last calls placed into Smith's cell phone. Information from the call log said the call was made on April 13th at 4:02 p.m.
Those voicemails wrapped up the prosecution's line of questioning Wednesday morning. Giving the defense the opportunity to cross-examine.
Since the beginning of the trial the defense attorneys for Gabriel Armandariz have not denied the murders, and have not denied Armandariz committing a vicious crime.
As the questioning started the defense attorneys attempted to build a different type of case. Not a case about the murder, but one of Armandariz's character, his qualities as a father, and his emotions before the killing.
They spent the majority of the morning reminding Smith of the good times in their relationship. They showed Smith, and the jury, photos of when the family was happy.
During that glimpse Smith had no problem telling the jury that he was a good father. A reason that Smith said was why the murder came out of left field to her. She said although Armandariz was an abusive alcoholic at times, she thought her kids were safe.
“His anger never made me question the safety of my children,” said Smith on the stand.
As the hours of cross-examination continued Smith grew visibly more frustrated. The defense not only called into question her parenting skills, but also her personal habits.
The defense questioned how she was as a parent to her other child, Kamryn. Smith lost custody and was only entitled to supervised visitation. And even with limited visitation they say Smith has made little effort to see her daughter.
“I may have told my daughter I was going to come see her, and didn't make it out there,” said Smith in response to that questioning.
She said money and transportation has been a continuous factor in her ability to come to her daughter.
They went on to say that it was no different in the lives of Luke and Gatlin Armandariz.
They showed the jury pictures of the two boys graves at their burial site in Sudan, Texas. The defense told the jury that when the boys were killed the community in Sudan rallied around to raise money for headstones for the grave.
Smith confirmed that enough money was raised to pay for those headstones. But in those pictures no headstones were on the two boys graves.
The defense pointed out that four years after their deaths Smith still hasn't made arrangements for a headstone.
The defense said their gravesite is currently just surrounded by dirt.
The defense also brought to the jury's attention that just months before Gatlin's death Armandariz took him to the hospital after he suffered a seizure.
The defense showed Smith text messages exchanged between the two, claiming she knew about the hospital visit, but she claims she had never seen those messages before.
It was at that moment that the cross-examination fell apart. Smith was visibly angry, saying she had no memory of those conversations between Armandariz and herself.
That's when the defense asked her to step down from the stand in order to review that evidence. The defense said that cross-examination plans to continue with many more questions they plan to bring to her attention.
DNA evidence was also introduced Wednesday in the Gabriel Armandarizcapital murder trial.
Two forensic scientists that work for DPS in Austin took the stand. The first scientist specialized in DNA testing of biological material.
The prosecution presented evidence of Gatlin's shirt the day he was murdered. The forensic scientist testified that blood was found on that shirt and in the tarp he was wrapped in. The scientist confirmed the blood found was that of Gatlin Armandariz.
Right after the blood samples were confirmed the defense declined to question that evidence.
And shortly after, another scientist took the stand. That scientist specialized in trace evidence.
That scientist testified to the jury that she examined the ligature found on Gatlin's neck, the clothing bag with the missing strap and a fiber found in the closet.
The closet was the same closet where the Luke was seen hanging in, in the picture he sent to Smith cell phone.
The scientist confirmed that all of those items contained the same fibers, had the same material make-up, and could be linked to the same source, the clothing bag.
However the defense pointed out that just because those factors matched up it did not mean they were from that exact bag, the same day of the murders. The scientist confirmed that reasoning.
In the final testimony of the day a reporter took the stand. The reporter was Jessica Holley and in 2011 she did an on-camera interview from jail with Armandariz.
Armandariz had requested the interview in order to share his story with the world. He started the interview by confirming that he had killed his kids, placing the blame on Lauren Smith.
“I made a 911 call telling them my wife asked me to do this, “ said Armandariz in the video interview.
Holley went on to ask him about how he killed his children, but he declined to answer.
“There are some things I want to hold off on,” said Armandariz in the interview.
At the end of the interview he expressed sorrow at the loss of his kids.
“My children didn't deserve this,” said Armandariz. “I'm going to accept my responsibility.”