The defendant accused of helping to kill a popular assistant manager at a Hulen Mall clothing store took the stand at her capital murder trial Wednesday and testified that she was terrified of her co-defendant, her live-in boyfriend.
Carter Carol Cervantez is on trial this week on a capital murder charge in the slaying of Ashlea Ann Harris, 31, on Nov. 28, 2014, the day after Thanksgiving, known commercially as Black Friday.
Police have said they believe that Cervantez, 27, and Clarence David Mallory, 21, beat and bound Harris and then set her body on fire and stole her keys to the store so they could take the store’s cash.
Mallory is also charged with capital murder. His trial is pending. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty against either defendant.
Cervantez testified that she knew nothing about the slaying and that she was asleep in the apartment she shared with Mallory when Harris was killed.
Cervantez testified that she cooked a traditional Thanksgiving Day dinner on Nov. 27, 2014. Mallory drank, they watched movies and smoked marijuana, and she got sick, Cervantez said. It was still daylight, she said.
“I laid down and when I woke up, it was dark and David was not there,” Cervantez said. “I remember both hands [on the clock] were pointed at the five. I went to bed and went to sleep. David woke me and said I needed to get ready to go to Cleburne and he wanted me to pack.”
Cervantez, Mallory and Harris had worked together at American Eagle Outfitters in Hulen Mall. Cervantez and Harris were assistant managers.
Police officers have testified that they believe that Cervantez and Mallory were responsible for the theft of nearly $18,000 from the store on Aug. 24, 2014, the final week of back-to-school sales.
Cervantez and Mallory were eventually fired.
Then, according to testimony from a former store manager, they plotted a Black Friday theft that could have netted more than $50,000. For that, they wanted to get Harris’ key to the store.
Cervantez testified that she and Mallory went to Cleburne and rented a motel room on Nov. 28, but later that day Mallory had her drive to Hulen Mall while he toyed with a 9 mm Glock handgun he held in his lap.
Cervantez said Mallory put the gun in her face and tried to make her steal money from the store. Mallory threatened to hurt her parents and relatives if she did not do what she was told, Cervantez said. And when she did not do what she was told, they returned to their apartment, where Mallory’s friends raped her repeatedly, Cervantez testified.
The first time Mallory pointed the gun at her she flinched and he laughed, Cervantez said.
“He asked if I thought he would shoot me,” Cervantez testified. “I said no. And he said, ‘You don’t know me. But I know you.’ ”
Then Mallory called out her grandmother’s name and address, her brother’s address and the address of her parents, Cervantez said. He forced her at gunpoint to recount the day’s events, but she did not know what happened, Cervantez said.
There are people who are meaner than me following you.
Carter Cervantez, testified her boyfriend threatened her.
Over and over he made her repeat the events of the day, Cervantez said. While she was talking, Mallory seemed to be calm but when she paused, he would pick up the Glock and point it at her again, Cervantez said.
They left Hulen Mall after a while, and Mallory had Cervantez drive to Wal-Mart, she said.
“On the way to Wal-Mart, he told me I needed to get some dark sweats and some shoes that I could run in,” Cervantez said.
Before getting out of her black Infiniti auto, Cervantez said, she told Mallory that she was going in the store alone.
“And he said, ‘Yeah, you better come out alone or I’ll kill everyone you love,’ ” Cervantez said. “ ‘There are people who are meaner than me following you.’ ”
Steve Gordon, who is representing Cervantez along with Bill Ray, asked why she didn’t ask someone for help, call police or run away. Cervantez said she believed Mallory’s threats to harm her family. The store was crowded, and she saw threatening people everywhere, Cervantez said.
“So I went in and shopped,” Cervantez said.
And then they went back to Hulen Mall, Cervantez said.
Mallory handed her what appeared to be a set of keys from American Eagle and made her change clothes, Cervantez said. Then she told him she was not going inside the mall, Cervantez said.
“He said, ‘You don’t understand,’ ” Cervantez testified. “ ‘There’s someone sitting outside your parents’ house and if you don’t go I’m going to kill them and I’m going to kill you.’ ”
I’ll make her follow directions.
Carter Cervantez, accused of capital murder.
But the key he gave her did not work and when she returned to the car, Mallory told her that she did not even try. Mallory took her back to their apartment and someone pushed her down to the floor as she walked in, Cervantez said.
Cervantez said she heard a voice she did not recognize that said, “I’ll make her follow directions.”
I’ve already dug your grave.
Carter Cervantez testifying how David Mallory threatened her.
Then someone took off her sweat pants and raped her, Cervantez said. After the first rape she tried to crawl away but before she could she was raped again — three more times before someone pulled her into the kitchen and told her to cover herself, Cervantez said.
The door opened and closed a couple of times, but she did not look up to see her assailants, Cervantez said.
“I don’t know what time they left me there,” Cervantez said. “It was dark when we got there and when I looked up it was morning.”
That morning, Mallory asked her if she had a good night, Cervantez said.
“Then [Mallory] said you’re going to go back and do it again,” Cervantez said. “I heard two people talking who said they haven’t dropped it yet. We’re going to take her back and make her do it again.”
A shallow grave
Earlier Wednesday, prosecutor Kevin Rousseau showed jurors surveillance video from a Home Depot that showed Cervantez buying two shovels, a rope, bungie cords, a pair of gloves and a tarp on Nov. 21, 2014, a week before Harris was killed.
A text Mallory sent to Cervantez with two sets of coordinates led police to a shallow hole on a ranch in Leuders, a sleepy town about 34 miles north of Abilene. Outside the presence of the jury, Fort Worth police Detective Jerry Cedillo, who was recalled to the stand Wednesday, said he thought the hole was a grave meant for Harris.
Cervantez offered another explanation.
Mallory dug it for her, Cervantez said.
“And [Mallory] said, ‘I’ve already dug your grave,’ ” Cervantez testified. “I was scared. I was too afraid to talk. ‘You’re so stupid, you don’t even know what I was planning. I texted you a picture of where I was going to bury you. Look at your phone.’ ”
On Thursday, prosecutors Ashlea Deener and Rousseau are expected to cross-examine Cervantez. The trial is in state District Judge’s David Hagerman’s 297th District Court.
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