PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Opening statements continued Thursday morning in the trial of Luis Gonzalez, who is accused of murdering a 12-year-old Providence girl during a neighborhood graduation party last year.
The trial began Wednesday afternoon, but it was cut short after a small fire in the Providence courthouse elevator prompted an evacuation of the building. The opening statements are expected to be completed Thursday.
The fatal shooting took place last June on Hartford Avenue in Providence. A group of men drove through the neighborhood and fired gunshots into a crowd of people, hitting 12-year-old Aynis Vargas and three other women. Vargas died shortly after the shooting at Rhode Island Hospital; the other three victims suffered injuries and have since recovered.
According to Assistant Attorney General Stacey Veroni, Gonzalez did not pull the trigger, though he gave directions on how to drive to the area of the shooting and told the alleged shooter how to position the gun.
Witness Vilma Tineo, who hosted the graduation party for her daughter on that tragic night, emotionally spoke through an interpreter in court on Thursday.
“He started to fire, and everyone started to run,” she said, “At the same time I saw Aynis’ foot, it was on top of the bar, because she fell. I got up from the ground screaming, screaming to everyone that Aynis was not getting up from the ground.”
Gonzalez, 23, is one of five men charged with Vargas’ murder, but he is the only one whose case made it to trial. These other four men have already pleaded guilty:
- Branden Castro, 21, pleaded guilty in April. Castro was the suspected gunman in the incident. He was sentenced to serve two consecutive life terms in prison, plus an additional 50 years.
- Ricardo Vasquez, 20, admitted to police that he was driving the car involved in the shooting. He was sentenced to life in prison.
- Angel Valerio, 19, pleaded guilty to three counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and conspiracy to murder. Other charges, including murder, were dropped as part of his plea agreement. He is awaiting sentencing.
- Luis Gonzalez, 18, pleaded guilty to the same charges as Valerio. He is also awaiting sentencing.
Police believe the shooting was gang-related.