Jury finds Suniga guilty of capital murder - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

Jury finds Suniga guilty of capital murder

Brian Suniga in the Lubbock County Courthouse, May 15 Brian Suniga in the Lubbock County Courthouse, May 15
Brian Suniga, 32 (Source: Lubbock County Detention Center) Brian Suniga, 32 (Source: Lubbock County Detention Center)

It took Lubbock County jurors less than thirty minutes to find Brian Suniga guilty of capital murder. 

Several people in the courtroom began to cry as the verdict was read, but Suniga did not shed a tear. Suniga remained relatively emotionless throughout the trial.

The punishment phase of the trial will begin Friday morning.

34-year-old Suniga has been found guilty of killing 26-year-old David Rowser II in December 2011.

The prosecution said Suniga fatally shot Rowser during a robbery at the One Guy From Italy restaurant on 50th Street, where Rowser was an employee.

The prosecution began Thursday morning by calling LPD Detective Richard Mayer III to the stand to describe taking witness statements on the night of the shooting.

Mayer recounted that Jonathon, Rowser's brother, gave a statement that was "to the point" and that he was "holding back a lot of emotions."

Mayer told the jury that the witnesses who did see the shooter identified him as the taller, thinner one of the two. They also told him the shooter was wearing whiteout contacts, baggy clothes and did not have facial hair.

They described the other man involved in the shooting as a shorter, heavier man with a star tattoo on his face.

The description given of the shooter did not match the defendant sitting in the courtroom this week. Suniga had shaved his head, grown facial hair and was wearing nice-fitting clothes, thanks to taxpayer dollars. 

The prosecution showed the jury two pictures, one of Suniga and one of Lopez the night they were arrested more than two years ago.

Detective Mayer pointed out that Suniga was much taller than Lopez and was 40 pounds lighter than his cousin as well. Suniga also did not have facial hair in that mug shot. 

Mayer pointed to Suniga in the courtroom and verified that Suniga was described by each witness as being the shooter at One Guy.

Mayer said the tip jar lid found in the suspects' vehicle fit the actual jar from One Guy and that the weapon located in their car that had Lopez's DNA on it was not the murder weapon.

The prosecution confirmed that the murder weapon was never found.

Mayer said the evidence led authorities to believe that a revolver was used to murder Rowser. 

Sarah Rothwell, a former forensic scientist for DPS who performed the DNA analysis in the case, was then called to the stand.

Rothwell said she was able to match Suniga's DNA to business cards left behind on the scene of the crime.

Sridhar Natarajan, Chief Medical Examiner for Lubbock County and Army Reserves Colonel Command Surgeon, took the stand to go over photos from Rowser's autopsy.

While a deputy medical examiner performed the initial autopsy, Natarajan reviewed the findings.

Five photos from the autopsy were shown to the jury.

Natarajan then displayed the bullets taken from Rowser's wounds while detailing the damage caused to Rowser's body. 

After a short recess at 1:15 p.m., closing arguments began, without the defense calling a single witness to the stand.

The prosecution urged the jury to consider the evidence and horror that was presented before them and told them to remember the 911 call they heard earlier in the week of the victim's brother, Jonathon Rowser, screaming for David to not give up, but stay with him. 

The defense said that although the prosecution did present a lot of evidence, there was not enough proof to support that Suniga was the shooter.

The defense argued that the trial was being based on emotion and that the witnesses, being driven by emotion, were not able to adequately identify the shooter. 

The prosecution told the jury that the evidence supports that Suniga was the shooter and that he intentionally caused the death of Rowser.

Lubbock County District Attorney, Matt Powell, recalled a witness' testimony. In that testimony the witness stating that the shooter, after shooting Rowser three times, said, "that's what you get."

Powell then looked Suniga in the eye and said, "Well, here's what you get, a capital murder conviction."

Powell told the jury that Rowser lost his life for ten or twenty dollars, whatever was in that tip jar, looked at Suniga and asked, "Was it worth it?"

Less than thirty minutes later, the jury found Suniga guilty of capital murder. Suniga could face the death penalty depending on what the jury decides during the punishment phase.

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