Videotaped Interview Played for Jurors Reveals Suspect’s Alleged Motive in Starr Co. Murder Trial
EDINBURG - Crammed into a small Starr County Sheriff’s Office room divided by a long narrow table, Texas Ranger Eric Lopez sitting about a foot away from Jose Luis Garcia, Jr. on the same side compels him, “spit it out. You know I know.”
This recorded interview was shown to a Hidalgo County jury on Monday.
The video was recorded thirteen days after Chayse Olivarez went missing in Starr County on July 30, 2017.
His mother, Margarita Olivarez, testified she last saw him getting ready to go play basketball at a park about two miles away from their Rio Grande City home.
Before she could say goodbye, he had left their house. A group of teens picked him up in a Toyota Tacoma truck.
Orlando Soliz was driving and his friend Martin Ramirez Jr. was with him in the passenger seat.
They were previously at a relative’s house when Soliz says he received a call.
Philip Selvera was asking him to pick him up and take him somewhere.
Soliz and Ramirez picked him at a gas station in Escobares, a town over.
Selvera was dropped off in a Silverado truck and got into Soliz’s Tacoma.
He gave Soliz instructions to Olivarez’ house where they went to pick him up and take them to a ranch.
Before Selvera got off Soliz’ truck, he left $500 in $20 bills – payment for the ride to the ranch.
Garcia was reluctant answering questions in the videotaped interview.
Lopez by that point had established rapport with him and built trust by asking a second investigator to leave, taking out an audio recorder, and using mirroring body language.
It was a method Lopez employed called the Cognitive Interview where the end goal is to obtain a confession.
Garcia slowly opened up sharing his favorite sports teams, named his closest friends and family, and discussed his dreams to get a football scholarship and eventually become a lawyer.
Lopez then progressed to asking about Olivarez.
The conversation became less fluid.
At one point, Garcia expressed a desire to leave.
Lopez replies, “I gave you truth. Now, give me truth.”
Garcia hesitantly responds saying that Lopez “already knows,” and that he doesn’t want to be a snitch. “Rio is a very bad place, full of bad people,” Garcia added.
A significant incident is revealed in the interview.
Garcia tells Lopez of a delivery he made to Olivarez’s house at the beginning of 2017 in January.
He says he took four pot brownies and nine bars of Xanax in a bag to Olivarez.
Each brownie cost $10 and a bar was priced at $3 each.
When Garcia walked to deliver the bag, Olivarez greeted him with a pointed gun.
Garcia tells Lopez that Olivarez says he’s sorry, but proceeds to take the bag without paying. Garcia leaves.
Months later, Garcia tells Lopez he devised a plan to murder Olivarez.
In the video taped interview, he is heard telling the Texas Rangers it took four days to plan.
Garcia used money he made from selling baseball cards to pay Philip Selvera for his role in the murder.
When Selvera and Olivarez went to the ranch, they headed to an abandoned house.
Garcia was in a concrete room nearby.
He stood concealed from view until he saw Olivarez walking outside the abandoned house.
The plan involved getting Olivarez to pick up a large steel barrel located outside the house.
At that point, Olivarez would come out from the concrete room. Garcia said he recalled using his father’s gun to shoot Olivarez “two, three” times.
He didn’t want to see the body, and asked Selvera to “do everything else.”
Garcia says he “cried a little.”
Olivarez’ body was burned in a concrete-lined fire pit a few feet deep.
It was part of the abandoned house backyard and a few feet away from where Olivarez’ body fell after being shot.
Selvera reportedly dismembered the body.
Olivarez’ skull, jaw, and other bones were left in black plastic bags in a placed dubbed “the Lagoon” by agents.
For his part, Selvera was paid $10,000. The gun used to kill Olivarez and a cell phone were disposed of in the Rio Grande.
By the evening of August 11 and taking investigators through the crime scene, the place where the gun and phone were dropped into the river, the gas station where Selvera was dropped off and picked up, and the house of a co-defendant it dawns on Garcia that he might be in trouble.
Lopez steps out of the vehicle leaving him with another investigator in the truck. Garcia says, “Oh, [expletive]. I’m going to jail.”
As the video plays in the courtroom, Garcia watches his former self say he is guilty of a crime he and his attorneys are fighting to prove the contrary.