Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Allentown, PA: Man admits killing and carjacking, hopes for lesser convictions

Jose Antonio Cruz Jr.'s attorney admitted to a jury that Cruz shot and killed Edwin Jimenez-Gonzalez, 45, around 1 a.m. June 6, 2011, after a nasty fight with his girlfriend.

He also acknowledged Cruz crashed his car as he fled and, after realizing it was disabled, tried to carjack several people before finally shooting Raymond J. Shook in the stomach and fleeing in the car Shook had been sitting in.

But the shootings were not intentional, claims Cruz's attorney, Glennis Clark, who hopes the jury will convict Cruz of a lesser degree of homicide than the first-degree conviction prosecutors are seeking in Jimenez-Gonzalez's death. First-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence but third-degree murder and manslaughter convictions allow defendants to eventually be released.

"It was not an intentional killing," Clark told jurors Tuesday at Lehigh County Courthouse.

Clark is also hoping the panel doesn't convict Cruz, 32, of attempted homicide for shooting Shook during the carjacking, saying he had no intention of killing Shook either.

But First Assistant District Attorney Steven Luksa told jurors that after they hear all the evidence in the trial — which is expected to stretch into next week — Cruz should be convicted of all charges. Besides first-degree murder and attempted homicide, Cruz is charged with aggravated assault, carrying a firearm without a license and multiple counts of robbery.

"Intent to kill can be formed in a split second," Luksa told the jury.

Luksa said the rampage started after midnight when Cruz and his girlfriend, Elba Lopez, argued at Cruz's home at 3 Maryland Circle in Whitehall. Clark said Cruz believed Lopez had been cheating on him.

After Lopez left, Luksa said, Cruz grabbed a .45-caliber handgun and tried to find her. Assuming she went to her mother's home at 420 Oak St. in Allentown, Cruz drove there and demanded to see Lopez.

According to the prosecution, Lopez's brother, Alberto Lopez, answered the door and said she wasn't home, then Lopez's mother and her boyfriend, Jimenez-Gonzalez, were awakened and came to the door.

Luksa said Jimenez-Gonzalez confirmed Elba Lopez wasn't there — Clark acknowledges she wasn't — and told Cruz to go home. Cruz entered the home anyway and pulled a gun on Jimenez-Gonzalez, Luksa said.

The prosecutor said Jimenez-Gonzalez grabbed the gun and the two struggled for it. Cruz then shot Jimenez-Gonzalez twice, Luksa said.

"Edwin is now on his kitchen floor at 1 o'clock in the morning dying," Luksa said.

Jimenez-Gonzalez was taken to a hospital and died about 30 minutes later.

Cruz's violence was far from over, Luksa said.

While fleeing from the home, Cruz crashed into another car at Airport Road and Union Boulevard. With his car not running, Cruz, injured and bleeding from the head, went to the Wawa at the intersection to steal one, Luksa said.

Cruz, who Clark said had a broken bone in his neck or back, tried unsuccessfully to carjack a few people.

Cruz wound up jumping in the driver's seat of a parked, running car Shook was sitting in. Cruz pointed his gun at Shook and Shook grabbed it, Luksa said. Shook then tried to get out of the car, but was shot in the stomach, according to Luksa. Cruz fled in the car but was tracked down by police about six hours later, Luksa said.

Shook spent more than a month in a hospital following a 10-hour emergency surgery and still experiences pain and problems defecating, Luksa said.

"What Mr. Luksa outlines is a pretty accurate account of what happened," Clark told the jury. "But you have to determine if they were intentional acts."

Clark said Cruz was "upset and angry" with his girlfriend, and when her family wouldn't let him in their home, "his frustration and anger" increased.

Clark said Jimenez-Gonzalez grabbed Cruz when he entered the home and "manhandled him," causing his client to pull the trigger.

During the carjacking and shooting, Clark said Cruz was perhaps disoriented from the crash and "was not there to hurt Mr. Shook."

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