Prosecutors Say El Paso Teen Brokered Cartel Hit

Confessed hitman testifies against former best friend

POSTED: 07:14 PM MST Feb 26, 2013    UPDATED: 09:31 PM MST Jan 14, 2014 
EL PASO, Texas -

The capital murder trial of the El Paso teen accused of brokering the murder of a cartel lieutenant began with tearful testimony from the confessed hitman, Monday.

Prosecutors told jurors Juan Gracia, 19, was a 16-year-old El Dorado High School student when he secured his best friend to do the killing.

Gracia, who is not much more than five-feet-tall, appeared in court wearing a light blue suit and spoke little with his attorneys as his former best friend, turned state's witness, testified against him.

Michael Apodaca, 21, was an 18-year-old Fort Bliss soldier when he said he shot and killed the man he was told was a U.S. government informant and debtor to the cartel, Jose Galeana.

Galeana was shot nine times outside of his East El Paso home, walking from his car to his front door, responding police officers testified.

El Paso's chief medical examiner Dr. Juan Contin testified Galeana bled to death in his cul-de-sac.

Apodaca testified Gracia's brother-in-law Ruben Dorado, also known as "El Dorado," wanted Galeana dead.  Apodaca said Gracia told Dorado the pair were interested in doing the hit for $5,000 each.

"I shot him eight times and as I shot him, I ran out of rounds," Apodaca said. "I took apart the pistol into pieces. Then I called Ruben to tell him I did it."

Apodaca testified he was later paid $7,500 dollars for the murder from Dorado, which was wrapped in plastic with his nickname "Smurf," written on the bundle.

"They asked me if [Galeana] said anything.  At that time I told them 'no.' He did scream but I was too ashamed to tell them that."

After spending more than three years in the county detention center, Apodaca testified he is now cooperating for the sake of his family.

Apodaca had been charged with capital murder and was facing the death penalty before he made a deal with prosecutors.

In a plea deal with the state, Apodaca agreed to testify against Gracia and others, to the satisfaction of prosecutors.

In exchange, Gracia is charged with the reduced murder charge, which carries a sentence of life in prison with the possibility for parole.

"He's got every, every incentive to say what the state wants him to say," defense attorney Ruben Morales said. "They made a deal with the devil."

Defense cross examination of Apodaca begins tomorrow at 9 a.m.