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DHS man pleads guilty to killing brother’s ex in 2015, sentenced to 15 years to life


A Desert Hot Springs man pleaded guilty today to fatally shooting his brother's ex-girlfriend in 2015 and was immediately sentenced to 15 Years to life in prison.

Jesus Garza Jr., 31, of Desert Hot Springs pleaded guilty Thursday at the Larson Justice Center in Indio to one felony count of murder and was immediately sentenced.

The charge stems from the predawn killing of Maria Duarte, who was found with a gunshot to the chest on April 12, 2015.   

According to a trial brief filed by prosecutors, officers responded shortly before 3 a.m. that day to a report of a person laying in the curb area of Palm Drive near Pierson Boulevard. Upon arrival, an officer saw Duarte lying limp with her face down on the ground and a little bit of blood coming from her mouth.

The officer tried to get a pulse from the victim, but was unsuccessful and emergency medical personnel took Duarte to Desert Regional Medical Center, where she was later pronounced dead, according to prosecutors. After the officer was notified that Duarte had a gunshot wound to her left breast, a search of the area was conducted and a 22-caliber shell casing was found.   

When detectives then learned that Duarte had a restraining order against her ex-boyfriend and the defendant's brother, Juan Garza, they interviewed him and heard that on the night of the homicide Juan Garza and his girlfriend were staying at his friends house, located about three blocks away from the area of the shooting, according to prosecutors. The defendant, who was described as being very protective of his brother, also spent the night with his girlfriend.

At some point in the night, the defendant left the apartment and returned appearing nervous and suspicious, telling his brother that he did something stupid, prosecutors wrote. Juan Garza said that his brother was jealous of the relationship he had with Duarte because it would make him pay no attention to the defendant.   

The defendant admitted to someone else that he shot Duarte and said he shot her because his brother's girlfriend had paid him to do it, according to prosecutors.

Article Topic Follows: Crime

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