William Joseph Griffin, the friend of a Houston-area man on trial for the 2016 murder of a Canyon Lake woman, described how the defendant coolly executed her after he got “annoyed” with her following an afternoon tubing trip in Comal County.
Daniel Jeremy Heredia, 26, is on trial for murder and other charges in the June 26, 2016 death of 33-year-old Jennifer Morgan Rivers.
Griffin’s testimony took up most of Wednesday’s third day of proceedings before 22nd District Court Judge Bruce Boyer.
“Daniel grabbed a .22 from his waist band and shot the young woman in the back of the head,” said Griffin, 25, an Anahuac resident who was initially charged with helping transport Rivers’ body — lying in the back of Heredia’s camper — to Southeast Texas.
Griffin testified he was in shock and didn’t call police because he feared Heredia, a life-long friend, who all that day had been trying to get Rivers to sleep with him.
“You’re trying to get this jury to believe that Daniel Heredia executed a young woman in front of you for no reason at all?” defense attorney Dan Dworin asked Griffin, whose testimony resulted from an immunity agreement with Comal County prosecutors.
Quizzed by Assistant Criminal District Attorney Daniel Floyd, Griffin recalled several events during the 72-hour period in which he and Heredia packed up Heredia’s luxury RV trailer in Wallisville, located in Chambers County, stayed at the Rio River Campground near Canyon Lake and returned to Wallisville, where Rivers’ body was discovered lying outside a shed on Heredia’s parents’ property on June 27, 2016.
“You didn’t have a poor memory when (Floyd) was asking the questions,” Dworin said after Griffin responded he couldn’t remember several events cited by the defense. “I bet if they were asking the questions, you’d remember — that’s because of this sweetheart immunity deal you have with them, right?”
Heredia is also charged with several counts of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence and intent to impair a human corpse.
Griffin was also jailed on tampering charges in Chambers County before the county transferred prosecution to Comal County in July 2016.
Griffin confirmed Comal County only offered his immunity for his testimony presented Wednesday. Floyd said Comal County would likely present Griffin’s interviews with investigators from Chambers County and Texas Rangers before a grand jury next week.
On Tuesday, forensic pathologist John Ralston, who performed Rivers’ autopsy, said pooling of blood in areas of her body resulted from her being transported from one place to another — which was revisited earlier Wednesday by law enforcement officials working the case.
Others appearing were Joseph Gaona, who stayed in Heredia’s RV during the weekend but left shortly before the shooting, and Heredia’s former girlfriend, Megan Amberger, who tearfully recalled visiting Heredia’s RV shortly after he’d returned with Griffin.
“He was crying — and I’d never seen him do that before,” she said. “The trailer was a mess and he said B.J. (Griffin) went crazy, and that they were playing a game and they didn’t know it (the gun) was loaded.”
Amberger said Heredia opened a side door to the camper and she saw Rivers’ lifeless body. She said she hastily left for her mom’s house, where they both called police.
Also testifying Wednesday was Shannon Borum, Rivers’ live-in boyfriend. Early the morning of June 26 they went “treasure hunting” on the river — diving for valuables lost by tubers — before he left to drive a bus for a river outfitter around 9 a.m. He said he wasn’t worried until investigators confirmed her fate two days later.
Wednesday’s testimony concluded with defense attorneys trying to illustrate the possibility that the gun could have accidentally gone off — making it a case of criminally negligent homicide instead of murder.
Texas Ranger Joe Haralson testified about the June 27 interviews conducted in Chambers County, which led to Heredia and Griffin being taken into custody that day.
The guilt/innocence stage of the case is expected to last until the end of the week.