Fort Worth

Jury in capital murder trial deadlocked on the shooter's identity, attorney says

South patrol and fugitive officers converge on a car occupied by capital murder suspect Aaron Rios.
South patrol and fugitive officers converge on a car occupied by capital murder suspect Aaron Rios.

The case of a man accused of killing a 17-year-old woman and wounding her 24-year-old boyfriend on Jan. 12, 2016, ended in a mistrial late last week.

Aaron Rios, 21, the first of four men arrested in the slaying of Nancy Mata to go to trial, remains in the Tarrant County Jail with bail set at $1 million.

It is unknown if the Tarrant County district attorney's office will retry his case.

The jury began deliberations Friday after lunch and came back that evening deadlocked, said Jayson Nag, who along with Curtis Fortinberry represented Rios. State District Judge Louis Sturns declared a mistrial, Nag said.

Awaiting capital murder trials of their own are Steven Moreno and Israel Ruiz, both 19, and Daquarias Dennis, 20. Each is in the Tarrant County Jail with bail set at $1 million.

Ricardo Casteneda Jr., who was shot three times, told police at the time that he had recently sold marijuana on behalf of one of the suspects and was attacked when that suspect returned for his money with three accomplices.

"The only eyewitness in the case was Casteneda, and I believe the jury thought he lacked credibility, and I agree with that," Nag said. "There were questions as to who pulled the trigger. "

There were a lot of people in the house and everyone was armed, Nag said.

At the residence where the shooting occurred, in the 3700 block of Bee Tree Lane, investigators found 10 to 20 shell casings, about 10 pounds of marijuana and about $53,000 in cash, Nag said. No weapons were recovered and no murder weapon was ever identified, Nag said.

Co-defendant Moreno wanted Casteneda to hold some marijuana for him and help him sell it, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. Casteneda said he called Moreno on the day of the shooting to tell him that he had arranged to sell the marijuana for about $30,000 and that Moreno could pick up his money.

When Moreno arrived he immediately punched Casteneda in the face before other men stormed into the house and began shooting, Casteneda told investigators.

Mata was found dead between the foyer and living room. She had been shot in the face. Police have said she was killed despite meeting the robbers’ demands that she show them where the money and marijuana were.

Investigators found surveillance video showing a man believed to be Moreno get out of a Cadillac Escalade and walk to the front door. The video shows three men wearing latex gloves and who appear to be trying to cover their faces with hoods following Moreno into the residence shortly thereafter.

The video then shows the Escalade’s driver turn the vehicle in the street to face the opposite direction, and that's when the video abruptly stops, the affidavit states.

Investigators later obtained video showing a similar Escalade at a nearby Wal-Mart on McCart Avenue about 15 minutes before the shooting. One of the SUV occupants, who looked similar to a man on the video from the Bee Tree house, entered the store and bought a box of Curad latex gloves, the affidavit states.

This report includes information from the Star-Telegram archives.

Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752, @mitchmitchel3

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