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Man Accepts Plea Bargain in Brownwood Murder

The first of four defendants accused in the Ronald Philen murder case accepted a plea bargain with the Brown County District Attorney.<br><br>
The first of four defendants accused in the Ronald Philen murder case accepted a plea bargain with the Brown County District Attorney.

Officials at the Brown County DA's office confirmed that 22-year-old Alex Gil, Jr. pled guilty to 1st degree murder in exchange for a 40-year sentence with the possibility of parole and agreed to cooperate with the prosecution in the trials of the other three defendants, 22-year-old Pedro Rocha, Jr., 22-year-old Matthew Scott Navarro, and 21-year-old Efrain Castillo III.

Philen's brother Randall was originally convicted of his brother's murder in November of 2011 and sentenced to life in prison. He was released on  January 11, 2012 after a confidential informant brought new evidence to the Brownwood Police Department which proved Randall Philen did not murder his brother.

The four defendants were arrested in the murder after a confidential informant came to the 35th Judicial District Attorney's office with information that substantiated Randall Philen's claim that armed gunmen murdered his brother while he was tied up in another room of the same house.   The Brown County District Attorney's Office pursued the information and secured the assistance of the Brownwood Police Department and the Texas Rangers to conduct a formal investigation.

District Attorney Micheal Murray stated in a press release in January of 2012 that the investigation revealed that gunmen entered the home of Ronald and Randall Philen in the early hours of December 11, 2009, intending to rob them of a quantity of marijuana, and shot Ronald Philen multiple times with a small-caliber firearm.

During his trial in November of 2011, Randall Philen had claimed that he had no involvement in the robbery and murder and that he was tied up and beaten by two of the gunmen in another room while his brother, Ronald, was being robbed and murdered.

According to a January 2012 affidavit by Bruce Spruill of the Brownwood Police Department, a second confidential informant confessed to committing a burglary of a habitation where he stole approximately four firearms, at least one matching the same caliber as the murder weapon used to kill Ronald Philen.  "After stealing those firearms, he took them to Pedro Rocha, Jr. and sold all four of them," Spruill states in the affidavit. "On January 9, 2011, myself and Ranger Crawford interviewed Alex Gil, Jr. who, then confronted with the fingerprint evidence, confessed to his involvement in the murder of Ronald Philen. He indicated that Pedro Rocha, Jr. was also involved."

According to Alex Gil's statement in Spruill's affidavit, Pedro Rocha, Jr. and one of the other suspects were in the room with Ronald Philen while Gil and another suspect forcibly detained Randal Philen and heard shots fired in the room where Rocha and one of the other suspects were located.  Gil also described seeing Philen lying in the floor where BPD officers later found his body during the initial investigation.

The trials of the other three defendants, Rocha, Navarro, and Castillo are currently scheduled for August and late October of this year and the final defendant's trial in late January of 2014.

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