FORT WORTH -- Eight-year-old twins Noe and Abel Dominguez were sleeping with their mother last year when the bed squeaked, awakening Noe.
He saw his dad on top of his mom, appearing to be choking her.
Abel was then awakened by Noe's screams. Abel thought his dad was punching his mother.
The boys pushed their father away, and he ran from the room. They thought they had saved their mother from whatever their father was doing.
They were wrong.
A few hours later, the boys woke up again, this time in daylight, to find their mother's bloody body, apparently dead for several hours of multiple stab wounds.
"She was frozen dead. I screamed and got my sisters," Noe Dominguez, now 10, testified Tuesday in the capital murder trial of his father, Abel Dominguez, 42.
Dominguez is accused of killing his estranged wife, Alma Garcia, 41, on March 8, 2009, as four children slept in the family's home in the 3900 block of Carnett Court in the South Hills neighborhood.
Tarrant County prosecutors pursued a capital murder indictment, trying to make the case to a grand jury that Dominguez committed two crimes that night: burglary of the home and murder of Garcia.
Because prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty, Dominguez faces an automatic sentence of life in prison without parole if convicted.
Defense attorneys Wes Ball and Santiago Salinas contend that Dominguez did not burglarize his home. They are asking the jury to find him guilty of murder, which carries a sentence of five to 99 years or life in prison with a chance of parole.
Daughter Janette Jaimes, now 20, testified that her initial response was "You're lying!" when the twins bolted from the bedroom crying that their mother was dead.
Jaimes wept Tuesday while recounting the abusive relationship between her mother and Dominguez, the man she had known as "Papi" since the couple began an 18-year relationship when Jaimes was 2. The couple had three other children together.
When Jaimes broke down while trying to describe finding her mother's body, state District Judge Mike Thomas called a recess. She was never able to describe the scene in the bedroom.
Instead, she testified about a fight on Feb. 24 that led Garcia to throw Dominguez out of their house.
The day her mother was killed, younger daughter Nohely Dominguez, now 17, said she spent most of the day at South Hills High School practicing track and cheerleading.
Her brothers were at a neighbor's house while their mother and Jaimes attended a birthday party. Nohely said she picked up the twins about 10 p.m., and they returned home. The boys watched TV in their mother's room until they fell asleep in her bed, where they usually slept, she said.
About 11 p.m., Nohely said, her dog began barking, and she looked out the window. She saw a ladder leaning against the house, but she said she went to bed. Several hours later, she said, her mother and sister came home.
She and Jaimes were awakened about 11 a.m. by their brothers screaming, "Wake up, I think Mommy's dead!"
When she hesitantly went into her mother's room, where the boys had been sleeping, Dominguez found "blood everywhere" and her mother's body. "We tried shaking her, but she was dead," she said.
A crime scene investigator testified that both boys had blood on their clothing, but blood saturated Noe's shirt. He had been sleeping closest to his mother, the investigator said.
Prosecutors Alana Minton and Kimberly D'Avignon contend that Dominguez broke into the house through the roof and lay in wait for Garcia.
That theory was supported by Robert McWhorter, a former neighbor of the couple, who testified that he saw Dominguez on the roof about four days before Garcia was killed.
Ball and Salinas offered a different description of what happened that night. They said Dominguez walked through the front door of the house he had shared with Garcia for more than 15 years. After finding his three children home alone late at night, they said, he got into an argument with Garcia when she returned and that the argument disintegrated into violence.
The trial continues today in Criminal District Court No. 4.
Martha Deller, 817-390-7857