First witnesses take the stand in De La Cruz murder trial

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — A jury was seated and opening statements were delivered Monday in the George De La Cruz’s murder trial. De La Cruz is accused of killing his estranged wife, Julie Ann Gonzalez. Prosecutors say he was the last one to see her in March of 2010. Her body has not been found.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys questioned a 73-person jury pool on Monday. After lunch, the field was narrowed down to 12 and the trial moved forward.

Day 1

She wanted out of her marriage with George De La Cruz, but Julie Ann Gonzalez may have already been looking forward to another marriage to her new lover, Aaron Breaux.

Breaux and Gonzalez had rekindled a relationship after she left De La Cruz and despite being frustrated by her husband’s refusal to sign divorce papers, Gonzalez was happy according to Breaux.

“We were talking about getting an apartment together,” said Aaron Breaux, the first witness called to the stand in the murder trial for De La Cruz. “We are talking about getting married and having kids.”

On the night before her disappearance, Breaux said he and Gonzalez had dinner at his apartment, a place he said she stayed often. The next morning on March 26, 2010, he left for work at 6 a.m., kissing her and telling her he loved her.

It would be the last time he saw her.

He called and texted her multiple times that day without response until he received a text from her around 2 p.m.

“(The text) said ‘I can’t do this anymore,'” said Breaux about the apparent breakup message. In that text conversation, the messages said Gonzalez was moving away to Colorado. Breaux found it a little hard to believe.

“Things did not seem right. I had a gut feeling something was wrong. I felt like somebody else had her phone.”

With that suspicion, Breaux said he asked for Gonzalez to tell him what his middle name was, since it would be something only she would know. The response simply said “I don’t feel like playing games.”

The state told jurors during opening arguments they will see evidence showing De La Cruz had in his possession many items that belonged to his estranged wife including a credit card he used at Walmart in the days after she disappeared.

Aaron went home from work that day to see if Gonzalez had truly packed up her belongings and left. Not only were her belongings still at the apartment, but she had left a love letter he read aloud for the jury.

“I can’t express how much I love you. How happy I am to be with you,” he read while pausing at times to compose himself. “You make me smile all the time. You make me feel special and loved.”

In the letter, Gonzalez also states he desire to one day marry Breaux and have a baby boy.

Breaux also testified Gonzalez was supposed to meet De La Cruz on Thursday, the day before her disappearance, to take the couple’s 2-year-old daughter Layla. The couple had split custody during their separation, but Breaux said De La Cruz had asked to keep Layla one extra day before giving her to Gonzalez on Friday.

It was that Friday Gonzalez disappeared.

Five-year wait

Family members of Gonzalez have waited five years to learn what happened to her.

“It’s been extremely difficult; a long, very long road,” said her aunt, Dora Soto-Derma, who hopes the trial brings closure. “Like we’ve always said, we’re just wanting answers, of what happened to Julie Ann.”

A grand Jury indicted De La Cruz in 2013.

Legal analyst Mindy Montford says the prosecution has an uphill battle.

“There are going to be some holes there, certainly,” she said. “They’re going to have to establish, first and foremost, that somebody died, and without a body that’s incredibly difficult to do.”

She says that could play well for the defense, but prosecutors must have felt confident about something.

“I anticipate the defense is going to make a big deal of that, but ultimately if the grand jury returned an indictment there’s got to be something more that links him to this case that just an assumption,” Montford said.

The trial will pick back up Tuesday morning.

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