Suniga laughs during capital murder testimony - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Suniga laughs during capital murder testimony

Brian Suniga at the Lubbock County Courthouse on Friday Brian Suniga at the Lubbock County Courthouse on Friday

The sentencing phase in the capital murder trial of Brian Suniga began Friday morning.

34-year-old Suniga was found guilty on Thursday of killing 26-year-old David Rowser II in December 2011.

The prosecution said Suniga fatally shot Rowser during a robbery at the One Guy From Italy restaurant on 50th Street, where Rowser was an employee.

Rowser's parents were the first to take the stand on Friday.

Rowser's mother, Sheri Pennington, spoke of the strong bond between David, who friends and family called Davey, and his brother Jonathan. Pennington said Davey is the one who named Jonathon, which means "gift from God." She said Davey was always Jonathan's biggest hero.

Pennington said Davey grew up overseas because she and Davey's father worked as missionaries for about ten years, primarily in Japan and Maldova.

Pennington said Davey had a servant's heart and was just as much a missionary as his parents. She said Davey was constantly sharing his love and generosity with everyone he met. Pennington smiled as she recalled Davey picking up the languages spoken overseas faster than anyone else in their family. 

David Rowser, who Davey is named after, took the stand following Pennington. Mr. Rowser said Davey had a heart of gold and even had a tattoo of a cross on his arm with his younger brother's name printed in Hebrew, depicting the great love they shared for one another. 

Davey actually died in his brother Jonathan's arms on December 26, 2011. The last words Jonathan said he heard his brother say were "Help me."

When questioned about what he missed most about David, Rowser's father replied "Everything. There not one more thing than the other."

Three employees from the Lubbock County Detention Center, where Brian Suniga has been held since being arrested in 2011, testified about Suniga's behavior.

Each employee described disrespectful behavior and said Suniga sometimes encouraged bad behavior from others in the detention center.

When a jailer repeated the disrespectful words Suniga said to him back in September, Suniga began laughing in the courtroom. That is the first sign of emotion Suniga has displayed since the trial started on Tuesday. 

Several state witnesses were called to the stand and presented evidence linking Suniga to the Tango Blast clique.

A gang intelligence expert explained the difference between a clique and a gang. He said a clique is a security group threat that is more loose and does not necessarily have to follow a constitution or bylaws. He also said Tangos are on the move in Texas and the group exists both in prison and on the streets. He said groups of that clique can compete against one another in the free world, but when they get to prison that act as one.

He said cliques typically feel like they have to prove themselves to gangs, but the Tangos have so many members now that they can outnumber many gangs now.

He said West Texas, Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Corpus Christi, and San Antonio all have known branches of Tango. 

A sergeant who works at the Lubbock County Detention Center said he was approached by an inmate who told him that Suniga and another member of the Tango Blast clique threatened his life. That inmate asked to be moved into administrative segregation. The sergeant said that request is rare because it's usually a punishment for violent offenders. 

The prosecution also showed the jury a video recording taken just a few weeks ago where Suniga refers to himself as a "foro," which according to the gang intelligence experts who testified, is a member of the Fort Worth branch of Tangos.

According to a recent report released by DPS, referenced in the courtroom on Friday, the Tangos are one of the most dangerous and widely-spread cliques in Texas with more than 8,000 members. 

The prosecution also pulled up Suniga's rap sheet from Tarrant County.

The prosecution read off a number of offenses ranging from assault to the use and sale of narcotics, including meth. 

The defense is expected to call their witnesses to the stand next week when the prosecution phase of this trial continues on Monday, May 19, at 9 a.m.

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