Trial of FBI agent opens in Stafford
A broken heart and other pressures pushed Arthur Gonzales to the breaking point last year when he snapped and killed his wife of 17 years at the Stafford County home they’d shared since 2010, a prosecutor said Wednesday.
Stafford Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Olsen said in his opening statement that the “super trained” FBI agent then “staged” a crime scene to cover up what he’d done to 42-year-old Julie Serna Gonzales, who died April 19 from four gunshot wounds to the chest.
“He said he had no choice but that’s not the case,” Olsen said. “He chose to kill his wife and that’s what he did.”
Defense attorney Mark Gardner agreed that Gonzales killed his wife, but he agreed with little else in Olsen’s opening statement.
“The scene supports what he said happened because it’s the truth,” Gardner told the jurors. “I challenge the commonwealth to prove that he staged anything.”
Gonzales, 43, is charged with second-degree murder and using a firearm in the commission of a felony. Wednesday marked the first day of what is scheduled as a five-day jury trial in Stafford Circuit Court.
Most of the first day was dominated by a lengthy jury selection process and opening arguments. Prosecutors Olsen, Kristen Bird and Michael Hardiman then called three witnesses before Judge Sarah Deneke sent the jurors home for the evening.
Julie and Arthur Gonzales were in the process of obtaining a divorce the afternoon of April 19 when Arthur Gonzales returned to his home at 59 Alderwood Drive in North Stafford. As part of a separation agreement, Julie Gonzales had moved out and Arthur Gonzales had primary custody of their two sons at the home. The children were not home at the time.
Gonzales told police that his estranged wife told him she was at the home to pick up some summer clothes. After she made a few trips to her car, he said he told her he wanted to talk about speeding up the divorce.
The FBI agent told police that this upset his wife, who he said told him she thought they were reconciling. After he told her that was not the case, according to the story, she attacked him with a knife.
Arthur Gonzales, who had some minor cuts, told police he “reacted” and shot her.
Gonzales called 911 after the shooting. The call initially went to Las Cruces, N.M., where the Gonzaleses lived and had Internet phone service before moving to Stafford, but eventually Gonzales spoke with Stafford dispatcher Tammy Embrey.
In the 911 tape played for the jury, Gonzales told Embrey that he “had to shoot” his wife after she attacked him with a knife. Embrey then spent about 10 minutes on the phone guiding a distraught-sounding Gonzales through the CPR process. There was never any indication that Julie Gonzales was alive.
In his opening statement, Olsen suggested that Gonzales’ failing relationship with 23-year-old Cara Kast was a bigger factor than anything Julie Gonzales did that afternoon.
Olsen said the evidence would show that Gonzales was “completely obsessed” with Kast and began an intense relationship with her even before filing for divorce in June of 2012.
Olsen said Gonzales and Kast broke up in January of last year after he learned she was seeing another FBI agent, Allen George. But they reconciled a couple of months later and resumed the relationship.
Toward the end of March, Olsen said, Gonzales looked through Kast’s phone while she was sleeping and learned that she was still seeing George, an Indiana-based agent. Gonzales had just had lunch with Kast before he came home and saw his estranged wife.
“He was always in control, but he could not control Cara Kast,” Olsen said. “And Julie Gonzales paid the price for it.”
Gardner said that his client had no reason to harm his wife. He said an affair she had in New Mexico and her problems with alcohol had damaged the marriage, but he said Gonzales moved the family to Virginia in a “desperate” effort to save it.
He finally got Julie Gonzales to go to rehabilitation, Gardner said, but she came home and immediately resumed drinking heavily. Finally, Arthur Gonzales had had enough and sought the divorce.
In response to Olsen’s claim that Gonzales feigned concern about his dying wife, Gardner urged the jurors to listen carefully to the 911 call and his interviews with police.
“No one at the Academy Awards could have put on an act like Mr. Gonzales did if Mr. Olsen is to be believed,” Gardner said.
The prosecution was scheduled to resume its case at 9 a.m. Thursday.
Keith Epps: 540/374-5404