Leeroy Suarez

NEW BRAUNFELS — Vicente Saenz on Tuesday testified that a confrontation nearly eight years ago led to his brother Diego being stabbed to death in New Braunfels.

The altercation started because he yelled at someone to drive slower in an apartment complex, Saenz testified.

The testimony was given during the murder and assault trial of Leeroy Suarez, 29, of New Braunfels. Suarez is on trial for a first-degree felony count of murder and the second-degree felony charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for allegedly attacking the brothers between the night of Nov. 19, 2004, and early morning Nov. 20, 2004.

Suarez, who is the cousin of the driver Saenz yelled at, later fought with and stabbed Vicente and Diego Saenz, killing Diego with a knife wound to the heart, said Steven Harkins, Comal County assistant district attorney.

Prosecutors contend Suarez stabbed and wounded Vicente Saenz in the buttocks.

Vicente Saenz testified that Suarez claimed to be a member of the Mexican Mafia gang and threatened the brothers hours before the fight. Vicente said he withheld that information from investigators until Tuesday because he feared for his life.

Under cross examination by Suarez’s defense attorney John Esman, Vicente Saenz said he is no longer afraid. Esman asked him what has changed.

“Now, I’m ready to die for this if I have to,” Saenz said. “Justice for my brother. I’m ready to die for justice for my brother, Diego.”

The men allegedly quarreled outside a New Braunfels apartment before Suarez left. According to Tuesday’s testimony, Suarez returned to the apartment, started a fight and stabbed the brothers.

While presenting his case Tuesday, Harkins called the medical examiner who conducted Diego Saenz’s autopsy.

Vladimir Parungao, who retired from the Travis County medical examiner’s office, testified that he ruled Diego’s death a homicide as a result of a one-inch stab wound to the left side of his chest. He said during cross examination that the wound could have been caused during a tussle or an accident.

“It cannot be proved in my autopsy,” Parungao said. “A wound of this kind could be called homicide, suicide or we don’t know.”

Harkins later called to the stand New Braunfels Police Sgt. Christopher Snyder, who was a corporal on duty and in charge of evidence collection at the scene the night of the killing.

Harkins showed Snyder a series of crime scene photos and had him identify several splatters and puddles of blood found in the area of the knifing. Snyder showed the jury and two alternates — nine women and five men — the blood soaked shirts and pants Diego Saenz wore the night he died.

Snyder testified that, when he picked up the garments, blood literally dripped from them.

Testimony is scheduled to restart at 9 a.m. today. Harkins said he expects to rest his case by about noon, giving Esman the opportunity to put on a defense.

Suarez, if convicted, could face up to life in prison for the first-degree felony and between two and 20 years for the second-degree felony.

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