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Brownwood Murder Trial: Navarro Convicted of Capital Murder

Matthew Navarro has been found guilty of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Three other men have also been convicted for the 2009 murder of Ronald Philen.
Navarro Murder Trial

6/16/2014 Update:

Following closing arguments Monday morning, the jury took only about an hour to find Matthew Navarro guilty of capital murder. District Judge Steve Ellis then sentenced Navarro to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Navarro's conviction and sentencing completes the saga of the 2009 murder case of Ronald Philen. Ronald's brother, Randall, was originally convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murder, though he maintained all along that the two brothers were tied up by four men who broke into their home, and that the intruders were responsible for Ronald's death. Investigators and prosecutors didn't buy Randall's story; in fact, Brown County District Attorney Micheal Murray stated during Randall Philen's 2011 murder trial that Randall's alleged shooting of his brother on Dec. 11, 2009 was "an act of rage" and was "a most heinous crime in a bitter betrayal." Based on the evidence presented against Randall, a jury to convicted him of his brother's death.

In early 2012, as Randall sat behind bars for a murder he says he didn't commit, prosecutors discovered the Randall had been telling the truth all along. Navarro, Pedro Rocha, Efrain Castillo, and Alex Gil were arrested for Ronald Philen's murder. Randall Philen was released from prison, and the murder charges against him were dropped.

Gil and Castillo subsequently pleaded guilty to murder, each receiving 40 years in prison. Like Navarro, Pedro Rocha was found guilty of capital murder in 2013 and is serving life in prison without parole.


6/13/2014 Update:

This marks the end of the second week of the Matthew Navaro trial.

Navaro is accused in the shooting death of Ronald Philen during a 2009 home invasion.

Both sides are expected to give their closing arguments on Monday. If Navarro is found guilty, he faces a range of punishment including life in prison or the death penalty.


6/10/2014 Update: Witness says Navarro pulled the trigger

The prosecution called Efrain Castillo III to the stand. Castillo recounted the events of the night of the murder, and testified that Navarro was the gunman who shot Philen.

Last August, Castillo pleaded guilty to 1st degree murder for his role in the murder of Ronald Philen, and was sentenced to 40 years in prison with the possibility of parole; part of the plea agreement was that Castillo would cooperate with the prosecution in the trials of Pedro Rocha Jr. and Matthew Navarro.

Alex Gil Jr. had previously pleaded to 1st degree murder in the case, and received 40 years in prison.


6/9/2014 3:35 p.m. Update: Prosecution Continues in Navarro Murder Trail

The trial of Matthew Scott Navarro continued Monday. Navarro is the last of four men accused of killing Brownwood resident Ronald Philen in 2009 after a home break-in.

The prosecution has been calling witnesses since Wednesday, June 4.

The trial is expected to last through Friday, June 13.

Note: An earlier version of this update stated the prosecution had rested on Monday. In actuality, the defense was allowed to call a witness on Monday due to a schedule conflict. Prosecution was then allowed to resume on Tuesday.


6/6/2014 Update: Defense Attempts to Blame Philen Murder on Drug Cartel

The murder trial of Matthew Scott Navarro, the last of four men accused of killing Ronald Philen of Brownwood in 2009, continued Friday as the defense argued the blame for the murder should be placed on a well-known Mexican drug cartel rather than Navarro.

The defense argued that it was not Navarro and the other men who broke into the Philen home that night, but rather it was a hit made by the Los Zetas cartel attempting to claim the 44lbs of marijuana in the Philen home. According to the defense, Philen had a connection with the cartel which operates out of Mexico. The 44lbs would have been worth a little over $20,000.

However, the prosecution rebutted this argument by saying the Los Zetas do not leave witnesses behind, and thus Randall Philen, the victim’s brother who was in the home at the time, would not have been left alive. Also, the prosecution pointed out that Los Zetas have never been known to make hits under $500,000. However, the prosecution argued Pedro Rocha, who received life in prison for his involvement in the break-in and murder in November of 2013, was a low-level drug dealer in Brownwood and the $20,000 would have sounded like a good opportunity to him.

One of the most critical pieces of evidence presented against Navarro Friday was that a grinder belonging to Philen, as well as three .22 caliber shall casings were found under Navarro’s bed.

During the trial, the jury was asked to leave the room for about an hour and a half as the prosecution and defense took a procedural break to go over their cases in front of the judge. This was done to determine the remaining length of the trial, which from these presentations is estimated to continue through Friday, June 13.


6/5/2014 Update: Prosecution Continues to Question Witnesses in Navarro Trial

The prosecution is still questioning witnesses in the trial of Matthew Scott Navarro.

One of the two witnesses called Thursday works with DPS and specializes in analyzing controlled substances. He testified that there were three findings of marijuana in the home, and it was hinted that these may have belonged to the suspects.

The Brownwood Assistant Chief of Police James Fuller also testified that he identified a possible print on the back door which appeared to have been kicked in. However, it was not specified whose print it might have been.

The trial will continue on Friday.


6/4/2014 Update: Brother Cross-Examined in Philen Murder Trial

Randall Philen was cross-examined this morning as he testified in the murder trial of Matthew Scott Navarro, the man accused of killing Ronald Philen, Randall’s brother, in 2009.

Navarro is one of four men who allegedly broke into the Philen home in Brownwood and killed Ronald while Randall was tied up in another room.

Randall Philen was asked to detail the events of that night, using a 3D model of the home to show where events took place.

He was also asked about inconsistencies in his former testimonies in the trials of three of the four men charged with the murder, as well as when police originally questioned him.

Randall Philen was originally convicted of the crime in November of 2011. However, new evidence pointed to four men: Efrain Castillo III, Alex Lucky Gil, Jr., Mathew Scott Navarro and Pedro Rocha, and Randall was released.

Castillo and Gil both plead guilty and agreed to cooperate in the trials of Rocha and Navarro in exchange for a 40 year sentence with the possibility of parole.

Rocha was found guilty of capital murder back in November of 2013 and sentenced him to life in prison since the prosecution did not seek the death penalty.


6/3/2014 Update: Jury Selection Finalized in Trial of Fourth Philen Murder Suspect

Jury selection has ended and the trial of Matthew Scott Navarro, the fourth suspect in the 2009 murder of Ronald Philen of Brownwood, is ready to begin.

The trial was originally scheduled to begin on January 27, but was delayed by a judge so that the prosecution would have time to acquire a taped interview the defense had requested.

Efrain Castillo III, Alex Lucky Gil, Jr., Mathew Scott Navarro and Pedro Rocha were arrested in early January of 2012 for the murder of Philen.

Castillo and Gil both plead guilty and agreed to cooperate in the trials of Rocha and Navarro in exchange for a 40 year sentence with the possibility of parole.

Rocha was found guilty of capital murder back in November of 2013 and sentenced him to life in prison since the prosecution did not seek the death penalty.


1/27/2014 Update: Judge Files Trial Delay

The judge presiding over the murder trial of Matthew Scott Navarro, the fourth suspect in the 2009 murder of Ronald Philen of Brownwood, has filed for a delay.

The trial was set to begin Monday, January 27, but has been rescheduled for June 2.

The prosecution was unable to supply a taped interview the defense had requested, thus resulting in the delay. The prosecution believes the delay will allow them the time needed to recover a hard copy of the interview, though this is not entirely certain. 


11/8/2013 Update: Navarro Pretrial Begins

The pretrial for the fourth suspect in the 2009 murder of Brownwood resident Ronald Philen began Friday morning.

The hearing is in regards to what evidence is available and permissible in the case of Matthew Scott Navarro. The defense has filed several motions to suppress evidence.

We will have more as the hearing continues.
_______Rocha Murder Trial____________________________________________________________________

11/5/13 12:20 p.m. Update:
Rocha Found Guilty

The jury has found Pedro Rocha guilty of Capital Murder in the 2009 death of Ronald Philen.

The prosecution chose not to seek the death penalty, so Rocha will receive a mandatory life sentence. 

11/5/13 11:18 a.m. Update:

Closing arguments are over and the jury is deliberating.

Before handing it over to the jury, the prosecution argued that the evidence against Rocha as one of those involved in the crime was so powerful, it "bent the bars of a prison and set [Randall] Philen free."


11/5/13 Update

Closing arguments are underway in the Philen murder trial.

The prosecution is asking the jury to convict Pedro Rocha on murder charges for the death of Ronald Philen in 2009.

The prosecution is arguing that mistakes were made in the trial that originally convicted Philen’s brother, Randall, of the murder, before the conviction was later overturned. They are arguing that the lead detective assigned to the case, Robert Mullins, had mistakenly misinterpreted the evidence and that Rocha should be convicted as the third of four men who entered the Philen home that night and killed Robert.

The defense is arguing that Randall Philen killed his brother, and the other two men, Efrain Castillo III and Alex Lucky Gil, Jr., gave false confessions.

The defense is saying the evidence does not support four intruders entering the home, and that the home was not ransacked, though Randall Philen claimed four men broke in and ransacked the home while looking for pot. The defense also alleges that Randal Philen had no bruising, though he claimed to be struck multiple times by the intruders.

We will have more information as this trial unfolds.

11/4/13 Update

The defense called to the stand Monday the detective that was first on the scene after the murder of Ronald Philen in 2009.

In cross-examination, the prosecution questioned the detective about the original evidence that had been brought against Philen's brother, Randall, who was originally convicted of the crime before further evidence overturned it.

The prosecution attempted to show that new evidence could explain things that originally seemed out of place, making it look like Randall had staged the home invasion: the stiffness of the body suggesting the victim had been there longer than Randall Philen had claimed, blood that already seemed dry, and wood chips from a kicked in bedroom door that were close enough to the crime, they should have had blood on them, confirming the blood was already dry when the door was kicked in.

The prosecution showed the detective pictures of what looked like blood on the wood chips, but the detective denied it, arguing it was discolorations in the wood, not blood stains.

We will have more as the trial continues.

11/1/13 Update

The prosecution has rested its case.

Their last witness was the forensic scientist, she was able to identify the fingerprints of Alex Lucky Gil Jr. and Pedro Rocha on Ronald Philen's door panel.

The defense was about to ask the sister of Ronald and Randall Philen, Penny Lawson, questions. Lawson spoke about the relationship between Roland and Randal.

With the new evidence, she no longer believes Randa. All she wants is closure for her family and justice for her brother.

The case will continue will continue on Monday. The defense will finish questioning Police Sergeant Troy Carroll and one more witness.

More witnesses may be recalled.

10/31/13 Update

The trial of Pedro Rocha, third of the four men accused in the murder of Ronald Philen, continued Thursday.

The state showed a video made of a conversation between Efrain Castillo and Alex Gil, both of who plead guilty earlier in the year in order to receive a plea deal.

Police allowed Gil to speak with Castillo two days after Gil had confessed to the murder.

Police told Gil that Castillo wasn't cooperating, so Gil suggested that he speak with him.

Following a conversation about the events that occurred the night of the murder, and the consequences if convicted, Gil leaves. Castillo then confesses to the detective that he was involved.

Castillo claimed he did not know a murder would occur that night. He claims he heard five loud pops, then Pedro Rocha and Mathew Navarro ran out of the house, and he and Gil followed.

Castillo claims he did not know what happened until he asked when the four were gathered back in the car.

After a recess, Dr. Nizam Peerwani, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Ronald Philen, was questioned.

The autopsy ruled that Philen had been shot five times from close range, and pictures of the autopsy were shown to the jurors.

10/30/13 Update


The trial of Pedro Rocha, the third of four suspects in the 2009 murder of Ronald Philen, has taken a brief recess. The detective who was on scene that night took the stand Wednesday.

Video of the crime scene was also shown to the jury.

We will have further details as the trial continues.


_______Original Story________________________________________________________________________

The trial of the third Brownwood man charged with the 2009 capital murder of 49-year-old Ronald Philen continues Tuesday.

Efrain Castillo III, Alex Lucky Gil, Jr., Mathew Scott Navarro and Pedro Rocha were arrested in early January of 2012 for the murder of Philen. Castillo and Gil both plead guilty and agreed to cooperate in the trials of Rocha and Navarro in exchange for a 40 year sentence with the possibility of parole.

Ronald Philen's brother, 50-year-old Randall Philen, was previously convicted of the crime after a nine-day trial on Nov. 22, 2011. At that time Brown County District Attorney Micheal Murray stated that the fatal shooting that took place at the brothers' home on Dec. 11, 2009 was "an act of rage" and was "a most heinous crime in a bitter betrayal."

Randall Philen received a sentence of life in prison for the murder and two years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Institutional Division, for a felony marijuana charge. The sentences were to run concurrently.

The case suddenly took a twist and was reopened in December. More evidence was presented to law enforcement which led to the arrest of two 21-year-old men, Pedro Rocha and Alex Lucky Gil, Jr. on Jan. 10, 2012. According to the district attorney Micheal Murray, information that substantiated Randall Philen's claim that armed gunmen murdered his brother while Randall was tied up in another room of the same house was brought to Murray's office by a confidential witness.

After an extensive investigation, the victim's brother, Randall Philen, was released from prison on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012 and District Judge Stephen Ellis signed a court order granting Philen a new trial.

Tuesday, October 29, Randall Philen testified in the trial of the third of the four accused, Pedro Rocha. Philen claimed he was tied up in the kitchen, kicked in the side and hit on the head with a gun by the intruders while he heard what sounded like a scuffle in his brother’s room. He said it sounded like the intruders were trying to get information from his brother. Philen then testified that he heard his brother gasp, then later heard gun shots.

The intruders then reentered the kitchen and asked Randall Philen where the weed and the money were. According to Philen, they left after accidentally saying the name, “Alex” while deciding what to do next. Philen says he pled for his life, but for whatever reason, the intruders thought better of it and left him alone, exiting the home.

This is a continuing story and we will have more as it develops.

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