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Felon suspected of killing Indio woman in 2016 to stand trial

Indio PD

A convicted felon suspected of fatally shooting a woman in Indio in 2016 must stand trial for murder, a judge ruled Friday.  

Marcos Cruz Gaeta, 42, additionally faces one felony count of being a convicted felon and narcotic addict in possession of a firearm and a sentence-enhancing allegation of discharging a firearm causing great bodily injury, according to court records.

Gaeta was arrested in March 2019 in Cathedral City on a fugitive warrant stemming from the Aug. 28, 2016, killing of 30-year-old Jamie Maher of Indio, according to the Indio Police Department.  

Jamie Maher

During a preliminary hearing at the Larson Justice Center in Indio Friday, the prosecution brought in witnesses who allege that Gaeta shot Maher several times outside of the garage at a residence on Santa Rosa Avenue.   

Angela Shaw, the daughter of the woman who owned the residence, testified that she was in her room at the time of the shooting with her back against the window that faced the garage area where she said "Smokey," the defendant, shot Maher.

"At first I heard one (gunshot) and then that's what made me look out my window and I saw (Maher) running out of my garage and him reloading his gun and then shooting her another six more times in the stomach,'' Shaw said. "...It happened so fast I couldn't really correlate in my mind what was going
on and I couldn't really like focus or think."

Monique Rivas and her husband Hector "Whiskey" Rivera, who were at the residence the same day, testified that they didn't tell law enforcement about Gaeta's involvement in the shooting after it occurred because they were fearful.

Rivas said she believed he had someone follow her in a red truck for miles and hit her a few weeks after the incident and Rivera alleged that Gaeta took him on a drive and told him that if anyone said anything or talked to anybody about anything then it would be "another body under his belt."

"That's the code we live by. We live by the code of what you see you don't say and what you see you don't tell nobody else, you keep it to yourself. The day you open your mouth, you know, there's consequences behind it," Rivera said. "When you got your family involved, you know, it's hard.''

Gaeta's defense attorney Melanie Roe alleged that there was a rumor of "Whiskey" being the shooter because, per his testimony as well, he was at the residence when it occurred, more often than not carried a firearm, and drove away in his truck shortly after the shots were fired.

At the end of the preliminary hearing, Riverside County Superior Court Judge John J. Ryan ruled that there was sufficient evidence to warrant a trial for Gaeta on all charges.

A post-preliminary hearing arraignment was set for Feb. 15.   

Maher was found shot multiple times on the evening of Aug. 28, 2016, at a home in the 82300 block of Santa Rosa Avenue, according to police. Responding officers performed CPR on Maher, but she died at the scene a short time later.

"When arrested in the area of Date Palm Drive and Ramon Road in Cathedral City, he was armed with a loaded handgun, but was safely taken into custody,'' according to Indio police.

Maher's mother told KESQ shortly after his arrest, "Where Jamie is, she doesn't need justice, but our family needs justice and the community needs justice."  

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

Gaeta has pleaded guilty to several crimes, including a felony child abuse charge in March 2011 and a felony burglary charge in May 2000, according to court records.

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Article Topic Follows: Crime

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