Suniga family members testify in punishment phase - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

Suniga family members testify in punishment phase

Brian Suniga at the Lubbock County Courthouse Brian Suniga at the Lubbock County Courthouse

The punishment phase will continue Tuesday morning in the trial of a man convicted of capital murder.

A Lubbock County jury found 34-year-old Brian Suniga guilty on Thursday, May 16, for the death of 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 trial opened on Monday with testimony from an officer with the Fort Worth Police Department.

The officer described an incident in 2008 where Suniga reportedly assaulted his common-law wife, Megan Erwin Suniga. The couple has two children together. The officer said when she arrived on scene, Megan's face was covered in blood. The officer said Megan would not tell her who was responsible for causing her injuries. The officer said Megan's mother witnessed part of that assault and said Suniga was responsible. 

A CPS supervisor in Tarrant County took the stand and said a CPS worker went to that home to check on the well-being of the children. She testified that Suniga told her he supported his seven children by selling drugs. The children were not removed from the home. 

A Tarrant County deputy and Tarrant County official then took the stand.

The deputy had written up Suniga in 2004 for receiving a tattoo from another inmate, which was against the rules of the jail.

The official described writing up Suniga in 2008 for demonstrating slow work habits and for bringing other inmates down.

An officer with the probation department in Tarrant County was asked to take the stand.

The officer testified that Suniga had been put on probation several times for possession of narcotics. He also had a long arrest history and weapon charges. 

The prosecution then rested and the defense began its opening statements.

Suniga was introduced as a son, grandson, father and husband, not the defendant. 

The defense told the jury to consider Suniga's life in contrast to Rowser's, with Suniga growing up in a family centered around alcohol and drug use.

The defense told the jury that Suniga is not a number but a human who will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Suniga's oldest brother took the stand and said they never had a consistent father figure in their life. He said he has two brothers, Michael and Brian, who is the youngest. He said their birth father is no longer living, but that his alcoholism led to his parents' divorce.

He said his mother's second husband was a good man and a good father figure to he and his brothers, but that marriage did not last. He said his mother was often working as a single mother, trying to provide for her boys. 

Suniga's mother took the stand next and spoke about his past.

She told the jury that she taught Suniga right from wrong but said Brian was exposed to drugs and alcohol during his childhood.

She said after her second divorce, she started dating her sister's ex-husband, Sesilio Lopez Senior. That name may sound familiar. His son, Sesilio Lopez Junior, was arrested with Suniga in relation to this murder. Lopez Jr. is charged with capital murder.

Suniga's mother said the relationship between Lopez's father and her did not last because she learned he was selling drugs for a living. The defense made it clear that Suniga was living with them during that time.

Suniga's grandmother also took the stand and described him as a "loving grandson." She asked if she could hug her grandson on the way out but was told no.

Suniga's cousin Rebecca described him as not a big drinker but admitted that drugs were a problem. Rebecca's husband Bruce then took the stand and said he used to drink and use marijuana and meth with Suniga.

He said he decided to change his life because he wanted his family to stay together. He said the support he had from his wife Rebecca helped him turn his life around. He said Suniga never had that support or encouragement and did not really have anyone he could trust.

Bruce started to tear up on the stand and said he wished he could have done more for Suniga who he loves like a brother. 

The punishment phase of this trial will resume Tuesday at 9 a.m. Suniga could face the death penalty.

RELATED STORY: Jury finds Suniga guilty of capital murder

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