By Danielle Eden C. Silva
Department 10 on Tuesday morning saw the end of testimony for the prosecution and defense in the case against Christian Rizo.
After the jury had been brought in, the prosecution continued the playing of a recording of Adrianna Pena, a driver during the incident. This recording covered her interview by Woodland Police in Houston, where she had gone to avoid gang life. Ms. Pena avoided questions, stating that she couldn’t tell more and didn’t remember anything because of her drunkenness. One officer shared with her the information she is withholding could affect everyone she knows, including her family.
Ms. Pena then stated she thought that the defendant, whom she addressed as “Kiki,” had been hit in the face with a shotgun. She didn’t see a shotgun with Mr. Rizo, who had been sitting in the front seat of the vehicle she was driving. Mr. Rizo and another passenger in her car told her to stop driving and both stepped outside to check on someone. Ms. Pena said she just drove around. The recording ended here.
The investigating officer, Detective Pablo Gonzales, returned to the stand. In interviewing Ms. Pena, he remembered she made a gesture under the eye to hint at the mark’s location. Her body language sent a lot of non-verbal cues to the detective that she wanted to say something. Detective Gonzales stated they needed to earn her trust first before getting information in return.
While she was non-responsive or reluctant, Detective Gonzales never took these as pleading the Fifth, nor did he force her to continue questioning. The prosecution stated that the investigation did not violate any Miranda rights.
While she claimed she did not see who shot the gun, the detective shared if Ms. Pena had been caught “snitching,” her entire family could be affected by her answers. Detective Gonzales noted she did reveal that the defendant came from the front passenger seat and the other passenger came from the back seat. She did not see Mr. Rizo with a gun, according to the detective.
Detective Gonzales also shared she didn’t know how the shotgun got in the car, even if she saw it at some point. She had mentioned the cut under Mr. Rizo’s right eye. Ms. Pena never stopped talking or asked for a lawyer.
The prosecution rested. The defense’s case began with the owner of the house near the incident.
The owner of the house had known Arnulfo “Happy” Bermudez, the victim, through a mutual friend, and Neil Silva for a year and a half. Both stayed with her for some time. Around the incident, Mr. Bermudez had been seeing a young woman who also visited the witness’ home to see Mr. Silva. She had told Mr. Bermudez about this before, to which he expressed confusion.
On the day of the incident, the woman seeing Mr. Bermudez went with Mr. Silva into the back room of the witness’ house. The witness could hear sexual noises. Mr. Silva attempted to contact Mr. Bermudez twice through phone calls that day before texting the victim to come jump-start a car. Mr. Bermudez did come but stayed outside the house.
Inside, the witness could hear two bangs which she thought were fireworks. Mr. Silva took off out front and yelled. She didn’t see Mr. Silva acting like himself, being more agitated and jumpy. Mr. Silva also took her phone and prevented her from using it. When she asked him if he killed Mr. Bermudez, he pushed her into a bathroom corner and told her he didn’t.
In the cross-examination, the prosecution played an audio recording of a police interview. In this recording, the witness mentions the young woman seeing the victim had come to visit Mr. Silva the night before and the night before that, and the witness heard that the young woman and Mr. Silva were having sexual relations. The witness shared she didn’t recall those statements and reemphasized Mr. Silva had been running and screaming for help. The victim and Mr. Silva were good friends so Mr. Silva might have been upset because the witness accused him of killing his friend.
The defense mentioned Mr. Silva had been seen cleaning bloodied clothes. The witness agreed, noting he cleaned a wife beater shirt and white shorts he had worn when the victim was shot. When he left, Mr. Silva was wearing a different shirt but she was too scared to ask about it.
The prosecution then played an audio recording where the witness told police that Mr. Silva washed these clothes around 7:30 pm or 8:00 pm, 20 hours after the shooting. She wasn’t exactly sure of the time but agreed this happened many hours after the shooting.
The defense recalled Detective Dana Simpson of the Yolo County Gang Task Force.
Detective Simpson had testified last week about the “kites” Mr. Silva had received. She mentioned those kites, jailhouse communications, were not in relation to Izzy Alvarez and she knew no incentive for the other inmate to give information.
Adrianna Pena returned to the stand.
Ms. Pena shared she believed she’ll be released on probation when the case is over. If Mr. Rizo settled, she would have been released right away. The defense also referred to a previous video in which she confirmed the lyrics were from a rap song. Additionally, another video did not have her face in it.
The third passenger in her car that night was brought up during the recorded interview. She gave them information on a cut on Mr. Rizo’s nose. Ms. Pena established she didn’t see who fired the gunshot and had not seen Mr. Rizo with a shotgun.
The defense recalled Detective Gonzales.
Detective Gonzales briefly explained he had lied to Ms. Pena about information he claimed to have gotten from the third passenger in her car. He did this so she would not feel alone. The information he received was from another person.
The defense’s final witness was the defendant’s stepfather. The stepfather worked at the same company but in a different section from the defendant. They would go together to work at 5:30 am in the morning and leave together at 4:30. One day, he saw a cut on his stepson’s face after work, on the left side of his nose. He had asked what had happened but the answer would not be admissible in court.
The witness shared he had married Mr. Rizo’s mother ten years ago. He didn’t want Mr. Rizo to get in trouble and they spent quite a bit of time together during the day. However, the witness did not know Mr. Rizo had a shotgun, as shown in a video of the defendant shooting with it, and did not know Mr. Rizo’s involvement with gangs. The shotgun had also been confiscated from the witness’ home by police. The stepfather shared he didn’t allow Mr. Rizo friends to come into the house. In a brief redirect, the witness confirmed the mark stayed on Mr. Rizo’s face for some time after.
The defense rested. The trial’s closing statements are to be delivered Wednesday morning in Department 10.