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Mistrial declared for DHS man charged in ex-girlfriend’s shooting death

Jesus Garza Jr.

A mistrial was declared today when a Banning jury deadlocked in the murder trial of a 27-year-old felon accused of shooting his ex-girlfriend in the chest in Desert Hot Springs nearly five years ago.

Following almost five days of deliberations, the jury hung 8-4 in favor of conviction, according to John Hall, spokesman for the Riverside County
District Attorney's Office.

Prosecutors are expected to retry Jesus Garza Jr., who is scheduled to return to the Banning Justice Center on April 3 for a trial-readiness conference.

He could face 25 years to life in state prison if convicted of killing Maria Duarte, who was found lying face-down on a sidewalk in the area of Palm Drive and Pierson Boulevard shortly before 3 a.m. on April 12, 2015. She died at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs.

Maria Duarte

Garza was arrested on suspicion of murder in 2016 while incarcerated at Norco State Prison, where he was serving a four-year sentence for second-
degree robbery.

In the year-long investigation that followed the victim's death, multiple witnesses identified Garza as the alleged shooter, according to police.

One witness who was standing about two blocks from the shooting scene said he heard the gunshot and saw Garza walking away from the area of Palm Drive and Pierson Boulevard, according to a declaration in support of an arrest warrant prepared by Detective Troy Castillo.

Investigators also spoke with Garza's brother, who told police that on the day of the shooting, Garza left the apartment they shared around midnight and returned about an hour later, acting "suspicious" and "nervous,'' and told his sibling that he "did something stupid," the declaration states.

Other witnesses alleged that Garza admitted killing Duarte and was paid $200 to do so by another of his ex-girlfriends, Castillo wrote.

According to the declaration, Garza also allegedly admitted to killing Duarte to several fellow inmates in prison, one of whom told investigators that Garza said he "loved Duarte and that he killed her over (her) being with someone else.''

The defendant is being held without bail at the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside.

Court records show he was charged while locked up inside county jail in December with possessing or manufacturing a weapon, a felony.

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