FBI agent’s case goes to jurors today
A Stafford County jury is set to begin deliberations today to determine whether to believe Arthur Gonzales’ story that he acted in self-defense when he killed his estranged wife last year.
The jurors heard nearly six hours of testimony Tuesday from an emotional Gonzales, who shot Julie Serna Gonzales in the chest four times during an altercation at their home at 59 Alderwood Drive in Stafford County. Gonzales said that his wife attacked him with a knife before he shot her.
Gonzales, an FBI special agent who is currently suspended pending the outcome of his case, is charged with second-degree murder and using a firearm in the commission of a felony. Wednesday marks the sixth day of a trial in Stafford Circuit Court that was originally scheduled for five days.
As he told Stafford detectives immediately after the slaying, Gonzales, 43, testified yesterday that he was surprised to find his wife at home when he went there April 19 after having lunch with his love interest at the time, 23-year-old Cara Kast.
The couple was in the process of a divorce and Julie Gonzales, 42, had moved out of the house. She was there that day to pick up some clothes, according to testimony. Gonzales said he followed her out of the house and asked to talk to her about the divorce. He said she agreed and they walked back into the kitchen.
Gonzales said his wife was less talkative than usual, but said he didn’t think anything was particularly amiss until his wife asked him, “Do the boys know her?” She was referring to Kast, who had some of her belongings in the house.
Something immediately changed in Julie Gonzales’ demeanor, her husband said. “We’d had thousands and thousands of arguments, but I had never seen that Julie before,” he told the jury. “There was a rage in her eyes.”
The FBI agent said his wife came at him with something in her hand. He said he blocked her attempted blow with his left arm and pushed her back with his right hand.
By the time she came at him a second time moments later, Gonzales said he realized she had a knife. He said he “instinctively” drew his weapon and fired. “She wanted to kill me,” a sobbing Gonzales said. “It wasn’t the same Julie. It wasn’t my Julie. It happened so quickly I didn’t have time to think.”
Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Olsen was confrontational from the start of his cross-examination.
“Mr. Gonzales, that’s some story,” Olsen said, drawing an immediate objection from defense attorney Mark Gardner.
Olsen went on to repeatedly accuse Gonzales of lying and staging the crime scene. Olsen said Gonzales added details to his story Tuesday that he never told Stafford Detective Todd Nosal.
For example, Olsen said the testimony that Julie Gonzales asked about her sons knowing Kast and Arthur Gonzales’ claim that his wife twice split his lip during one of their arguments had never come up prior to Tuesday.
“The reason it didn’t come up before is because these things never happened,” Olsen said. “You fabricated those details later to bolster your story, right Mr. Gonzales?”
Gonzales answered that question and many others posed by Olsen by saying, “That absolutely is not true.”
Olsen also asked numerous questions regarding Gonzales’ relationship with Kast, who has since married another FBI agent. Olsen has alleged that Gonzales’ desire to be rid of his wife and his anguish at finding out that Kast was involved with another man were factors in the slaying. Olsen also said that urine stains found running down Julie Gonzales’ legs were an indication that she was scared because she knew her husband was going to kill her.
Gonzales admitted that he was in love with Kast, but denied being obsessed with her or putting her ahead of his children.
Before being grilled by Olsen, Gonzales testified in detail about his 17-year marriage. He said his wife’s problems with alcohol and her temper and her affair with another man while they were living in New Mexico put a great strain on the marriage starting around 2008. He said he moved the family to Virginia in 2010 in hopes of putting the marriage back together and he said things did get better for about six months or so. But he said the alcohol once again took over and, after consulting attorneys twice, he served her with divorce papers in June of 2012.
Gonzales twice called the Stafford Sheriff’s Office to calm his wife down, the evidence showed.
He vehemently denied Olsen’s claim that he wanted his wife dead. “She was the mother of my children,” Gonzales said. “I had hoped to celebrate a 50th anniversary with her one day.”
The defense also put on considerable evidence claiming that Julie Gonzales was a volatile woman who frequently “got up in [her husband’s] face.” Gonzales said he began taking pictures and videos chronicling his wife’s drinking issues and anger outbursts. But he had no explanation why he had no pictures of the split lips he said his wife had given him.
Judge Sarah Deneke again denied Gardner’s motion to dismiss that murder charge, saying it was a jury decision.
Keith Epps: 540/374-5404