Nineteen-year-old Gabriela Gonzales witnessed her boyfriend's shooting death in New London last year and lived to testify about it in court, even though she said the gunman turned his pistol on her as well.
Gonzales was sleeping with 25-year-old Jorge "Loco" Rosa when Davion Smith and her ex-boyfriend, Evan Holmes, allegedly forced their way into his apartment at 252 Montauk Ave. and killed him in his bed on Nov. 12, 2011.
She told her story on the witness stand in New London Superior Court Thursday during an evidentiary hearing for 19-year-old Smith that concluded with a judge's ruling that the state had met its burden of proving probable cause.
Gonzales, who admitted she still fears retribution, remained calm and avoided eye contact with Smith as she told her story. She testified that she fell asleep watching "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and that she woke up to hear Holmes' voice and to see Holmes and Smith standing at the foot of the bed holding guns.
"I remember Evan saying something, asking who (Rosa) was," she testified. "Then he pulled the trigger."
Rosa fell out of the bed, and Smith walked out of the room, she said.
Gonzales paused before describing what happened next. She took a drink of water and continued her story.
"Evan hesitated and pointed the gun at me and he shook his head at me, kind of like in disappointment, and walked out of the room," she testified. "I told him to stop."
Holmes and Smith left, and she followed Rosa's instructions to call the police, Gonzales testified. The dispatcher asked her who had shot her boyfriend, but she said she didn't know.
"I was afraid," she testified.
Later, confronted with the gravity of Rosa's injuries, she told police it was Holmes and Smith, who she said were "like brothers."
New London police arrested Holmes hours later at an Old Saybrook motel. Smith spent the next four months at large and was arrested in March after he attempted to crawl out a second-floor window, according to New London Detective Matthew Galante.
Judge Susan B. Handy adjourned to craft her ruling and read it from the bench, summarizing the evidence before announcing there was probable cause that the crime of murder had occurred and that the person who had committed it was Smith.
Once Handy rendered her decision, Smith's attorney entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf on charges of murder, home invasion and first-degree burglary. He will return to court on Nov. 15, when the attorneys will begin discussing whether it is possible to resolve the case short of trial.
Though Smith is not believed to be the actual shooter, but rather an accessory to the crime, he faces up to 60 years in prison for murder if found guilty of murder.
Smith had opted for the probable cause hearing while Holmes had waived his right to a similar proceeding. The hearing took place over three separate days. Gonzales' first-hand testimony and a recording of the 911 call she made as her boyfriend of just a few months lay dying on his bedroom floor were among the last pieces of evidence introduced by prosecutor Paul J. Narducci Thursday.
Tissues were in demand in the gallery as the victim's family and friends reacted to the testimony. Rosa's mother, Bridgette Feliciano, said she would continue to attend the two men's court appearances. She said she believed her son's girlfriend spoke the truth about the incident.
"What hurt me the most was hearing the 911 call and hearing my son's voice in the background," she said.
On the recording, Rosa could be heard coughing or moaning as a hysterical Gonzales begged the dispatcher to send someone fast.
Smith's family members also were in court, listening quietly to the testimony. Donovan, his attorney, argued that Gonzales, who initially said she didn't know who shot Rosa, decided to blame her ex-boyfriend, Holmes, and his best friend, Smith, because she was afraid of the person who really killed Rosa.
Holmes had been convicted of shooting a man in the foot and had been released from prison just nine days before the shooting. Gonzales said during cross-examination that she had broken up with Holmes, via mail, while he was incarcerated and that he appeared to accept the breakup. She said he asked if they could remain friends and she told him no.