A Cathedral City man was convicted today of killing a woman and wounding two other people at a house party.
Gabriel Cuevas Cardoza, 34, was found guilty of first-degree murder for
gunning down 52-year-old Mary Ellen Palacios Rodriguez and two counts of
attempted murder for shooting two of her male relatives on April 2, 2011, in
Jurors deliberated for a little over a day before reaching the verdicts. They also found true firearm use and great bodily injury allegations.
He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 18 at the Larson Justice Center
Deputy District Attorney Scot Clark said a 55th wedding anniversary party was being held for Philip and Grace Palacios in the 30400 block of San
Antonio Drive, in what is known as the Dream Homes area, when Cardoza showed up uninvited with ``an axe to grind.''
One of the couple's sons-in-law, Joey Garcia, had in the past shown up and yelled at Cardoza at one of Cardoza's family functions, and there was a
longstanding grudge between the two men, the prosecutor said.
Garcia and Cardoza exchanged words -- the nature of which were unknown -- at the anniversary party, and Cardoza shot Garcia once in the hip and once in the foot, Clark said.
Garza, Garcia's nephew, approached Cardoza without saying anything, and
Cardoza shot him in the pelvis, according to the prosecutor. Rodriguez then ran over to Cardoza, Clark said.
``She says, `There are children here, stop this,' he raises the gun and points it at her head, she screams, runs away and Mr. Cardoza shoots her in the back,'' the prosecutor told the jury.
Rodriguez, a mother and grandmother, died at a hospital. Multiple witnesses later identified Cardoza as the shooter, Clark said.
Clark said a partygoer, the boyfriend of one of the Palacios clan, drove after Cardoza and mowed him down with a white Saturn. Cardoza was seriously
injured, and his shorts -- containing the murder weapon -- somehow ended up in the car that injured him, the prosecutor said.
When Cardoza's brother, 34-year-old Guillermo Cardoza, arrived at the scene, he was fatally shot by an unidentified assailant, Clark said. The man who drove after Gabriel Cardoza denied that he shot Guillermo Cardoza, Clark said. According to police, no suspects have been arrested in that shooting, which remains under investigation.
Defense attorney Neil Harrison maintained that Guillermo Cardoza was the
person who killed Rodriguez, and afterward was targeted by the driver of the Saturn and members of the Palacios family.
The brothers were struck by the car near their home, and Guillermo was shot eight times, including while he was on the ground, Harrison said.
``They went after the person who took down three members of their family,'' he told the jury. The defense attorney said there was bad blood between the two families, ``like the Hatfields and McCoys ... it would go back and forth. This was an eye for an eye.''
He said someone put the gun used in the party shootings into the pocket
of Gabriel Cardoza's pants. A DNA analysis of the gun showed Guillermo Cardoza couldn't be ruled out as a contributor, he said.
He said Gabriel Cardoza didn't remember being struck by the car or the
moments before, because his blood alcohol level was .42, a level that might put some people in a coma, and would definitely inhibit walking down the street and shooting a gun.
He said Cardoza started drinking earlier in the day and had been an alcoholic since the death of a girl with whom he was close.