Defendant's relatives testify on third day of Rocha murder trial

Rocha murder trial, day 3

BROWNWOOD, Texas - A couple of the defendant's relatives testified Thursday morning and described to the jury what they say happened shortly after Ronald Philen's murder.

Pedro Rocha Jr. is one of four men charged with killing Philen on December 11, 2009 when they broke into his home, trying to steal marijuana.

In her tearful testimony, Rocha's cousin, Alicia Bates, 21, recalled hearing a knock on her apartment door around 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. the day after the murder. She said she opened the door to find her brother, Alex "Lucky" Gil Jr., 23, and their family friend Efrain Castillo, 22.

"They looked scared and tired... like they saw a ghost," Alicia Bates said.

She said she knew something was wrong. When she asked Gil what was going on, he told her she didn't need to know, "just that there was a really bad fight."

According to her, Rocha came over to her apartment later that day. She asked him what was going on. He replied, "What do you know?"

About a week later, after the murder made the press, Alicia confronted her brother again. He told her they were there to steal drugs but it wasn't supposed to end the way that it did. 

Alicia's estranged husband, 23-year-old Joseph Bates, was next on the witness stand. He admitted to stealing four firearms from his neighbor and then exchanging them with Rocha for marijuana about a month before the murder.

"I felt like it's partially my fault because I gave guns that killed someone," Joseph Bates said.

He testified the four guys told him they got a call from Rocha to go with him to steal marijuana.

He said he confided in his older brother, Jacob Gill, telling him everything he knew about the murder so he could get it off his chest.

"He was the only person I had, but I realized you can't trust him," he said.

His brother later tipped off the police.

Gil and Castillo have taken plea deals. The fourth man involved, Matthew Navarro, 22, is due in court in January. Originally, Randall Philen was convicted for his brother's murder, but that ruling was overturned.

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