A jury was selected on Monday in the case of the State of Texas v. Francisco Javier Tafolla, a 23 year old Hispanic man illegally in this county.
The defendant was on trial for Aggravated Robbery that occurred Feb. 13, 2011 in a home located on Greenway Street inside Gilmer. The defendant had previously entered a plea of guilty to the First Degree Felony offense at his pretrial hearing April 13 of this year.
He chose to have a jury selected to decide punishment. The defendant was represented by retained Longview attorney Tonda Curry and Dallas attorney William Cantu.
District Attorney Billy Byrd prosecuted the case for the state and visiting Judge Diane Devasto presided over all proceedings of the case, including trial.
Evidence showed that the defendant had been employed as a subcontractor for a local Gilmer business, laying flooring in homes.
While working inside some of these homes, he would unlock windows so he could later come back to steal property.
He focused on homes involving elderly citizens, Byrd said. In July 2010, the defendant installed flooring in a home on Greenway Street.
He came back to reinstall flooring again in December, 2010. On that date, the defendant took a screw out of a window latch at the rear of the residence.
He waited until Feb. 13, 2011 and came back at about 9:30 p.m.
Dressed in all black with a ski mask. He came to the rear of the home and opened the window and entered.
He knew the 74-year-old woman lived there alone and he expected her to be inside, Byrd said.
“He took a roll of duct tape with him, wanting to tie her up and attack her,” Byrd said.
When he entered the home, the victim was asleep in her chair in the den where she had been watching television, Byrd said.
The window he entered was on the opposite end of the house. After making entry, he went into a closet within the bedroom and took two handguns with bullets.
These had belonged to her deceased husband. The perpetrator then walked through the hallway, kitchen and then the den where he found the victim.
The victim testified she woke to hear footsteps in the kitchen thinking it was one of her kids. She then turned to look and saw a man dressed in all black with a ski mask.
She quickly said she had no money. The victim testified she next sent a short prayer to God that she did not know what she was about to go through, but asked Him to please help her get through it.
The Defendant attacked her with the duct tape already stretched out attempting to tape her around her mouth, Byrd said.
She testified she put her hands between the tape and her mouth trying to stop him. During the struggle he pulled her from her chair, where she landed on the floor and passed out. When she woke no one was in the home and she called her son who lived a short distance away.
Investigator Sgt. Roxanne Warren was the lead investigator for the Gilmer Police Department. She collected the duct tape as evidence, since the intruder dropped it when he left.
In unrelated investigations involving burglary of homes, this same Defendant had been identified as a suspect.
Enough evidence was gathered on those burglaries that occurred in January and February 2011 that an arrest warrant was issued on February 28, 2011.
The Defendant was found in Wood County, and taken to jail there on the burglary warrants.
The Defendant eventually admitted that he did break into more than one home in Gilmer, where he stole property and sold those items for drugs.
He was very adamant he had committed no other burglaries nor stolen any guns, Byrd said.
“He did agree to allow Investigator Warren to take a saliva sample from him, not knowing whether the victim from the attack Feb. 13 was alive or not, and not knowing that Detective Warren had collected the duct tape he left behind,” Byrd said.
In May 2011, the Defendant was prosecuted for the Burglary of Tim Buetner’s home and sentenced to five years in prison. In October 2011, the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s officer was able to discover Javier Tafolla’s DNA profile on the duct tape by using the saliva sample taken in the other burglary investigations.
Additional witnesses were developed that in fact the Defendant had bragged about stealing guns from an old lady, and Investigator Warren found the witness that the Defendant traded the guns to in exchange for drugs, Byrd said.
The Grand Jury indicted the Defendant and the State benched him back from prison to stand trial on the charge of Aggravated Robbery.
Evidence at trial showed this Defendant had been illegally in the country since the age of five months. Evidence also showed he had taken no steps to become a legal citizen of this country.
“Home invasions like this are a very serious crime,” Byrd said. “But for the victim passing out, there is no way to know what would have happened. The Defendant sought out and preyed on an innocent 74-year-old citizen who had a right to be safe in her home. He knew she was vulnerable and that it would be easy to do as he wished.
“Because this was an aggravated offense, the Defendant must serve at least half of the sentence day for day without credit for any good time before becoming eligible for parole,” Byrd said. “Even then, it does not mean he will be paroled, but he could be eligible. He does have a Federal Detainer on him because he is illegal.
“The law works like this: whenever he does become eligible for parole the prison unit will contact the Federal Government and they should deport him at that time. However, this does not always happen, and further there was evidence submitted to the jury that even if deported, some come right back into the country.
“I am very thankful for the thorough and professional job the Gilmer Police Department did on this case, especially Investigator Warren, Lt. Mark Case and Lt. Ron Benge. Their efforts brought forth the plea of guilty. Equally, I am thankful to the Upshur County citizens who served on this jury and by their verdict stated clearly this crime will not be tolerated.
“This case should serve as a reminder to us all to remain vigilant in our communities. From the beginning, this case was very disturbing because of how the Defendant planned and premeditated this violent crime. Crimes like these deserve strong punishment, and I am satisfied that justice was accomplished here this week,” Byrd said.