A Texas man has been found guilty in connection to a 2008 murder-for-hire scheme in Mexico in which his wife, her sister and their father were assassinated.
Samuel Velasco Gurrola, 41, of El Paso, faces a mandatory life sentence after he was convicted last week of conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country and conspiracy to cause foreign travel for murder for hire.
Two of his siblings have pleaded guilty to conspiracy-related counts and face up to life terms, and a third sibling remains at large and is being sought by the authorities.
Texas prosecutors say Velasco was charged in 2005 with aggravated sexual assault of a child and indecency with a child and wanted to stop his wife, 40-year-old Ruth Sagredo Escobedo, from testifying against him.
Twisted plot: Samuel Velasco Gurrola, 41, has been found guilty of concocting a murder-for-hire plot, which resulted in the deaths of his wife, father-in-law and sister-in-law in Mexico
Eduardo Avalos Sr, Sagredo’s first husband and the father of their children, told the court during Velasco’s trial that Ruth was determined to testify in the case against Velasco, reported CBS 4 Local.
‘She was very adamant about getting this person [Velasco] prosecuted and have him pay for what he did,’ he said.
Around that time, Ruth and Samuel Velasco were in the process of getting a divorce.
Carlos Sagredo, Ruth's brother, testified during the trial that his sister was scared because she was being followed, she was getting threatening phone calls, and dead birds were left at her house.
According to Carlos, Velasco had concocted a plot to kill his father-in-law in an effort to lure his wife to his funeral, reported El Paso Times.
In October 2008, a group of masked men broke into the Juarez, Mexico, home of 69-year-old Francisco Maria Sagredo Villareal, Ruth Sagredo's father, stole money from his safe and killed him.
As Velasco had planned, his wife crossed the border to attend his funeral, but Carlos Sagredo told the court earlier this month that the assassins his brother-in-law had hired were unable to carry out the contract killing because there were too many police officers at the cemetery that day attending funerals for two of their colleagues who had been murdered.
Wanted woman: Velasco's sister, Texas elementary school teacher Monica Velasco, is being sought in connection to the assassination scheme
Velasco then hatched a new plan to have his sister-in-law killed in order to draw his wife to Mexico once again, the prosecutors argued.
On November 20, 2008, Cinthia Sagredo Escobedo, 40, was shot dead by masked gunmen outside her late father's hotel in Juarez.
Two days later, her sister Ruth was riding in a limousine in the funeral procession in Ciudad Juarez when a masked man opened fire on her from a machine gun.
Sagredo's friend Roberto Martinez, who was sitting in the back of the limo next to her, was also killed.
'I saw Roberto's head just gone,' Carlos Sagredo recounted for the jury. 'I saw my sister … with a bullet in her eye. She expired in front of me.'
The sexual assault case against Velasco was dropped in 2009, a year after his wife's assassination.
It took jurors three hours to convict Samuel Velasco last Monday. His sentencing was scheduled for January 2017.
His brother, Emmanuel Velasco Gurrola, has pleaded guilty to three counts of conspiracy to injure property of foreign government. He is scheduled to be sentenced in December.
His sister Dalia Valencia also has been arrested and charged in connection to the murder-for-hire plan.
The US Marshals Service is still searching for Velasco's other sister, Monica Velasco, who at one time had worked as a teacher at Thomas Manor Elementary School in Lower Valley.
The four siblings and nine other suspects are also facing federal charges in a drug-trafficking case.