AUSTIN (KXAN/AP) — An ex-firefighter was found guilty of murder and tampering with evidence in the death of his girlfriend, Veronica Navarro.
The Travis County jury deliberated less than an hour before returning its verdict against former Pedernales Fire Department firefighter Joe Carr. The 29-year-old defendant could be sentenced to life imprisonment.
Prosecutors told jurors that Carr killed Navarro in 2011 after they became involved in a “love triangle.”
The 22-year-old woman’s body was found in Lake Travis. Authorities say her body was tied to a paint can similar to one found in Carr’s home. Carr was stopped trying to cross the border into Canada three days after Navarro’s body was found.
Sentencing in the trial will begin Wednesday at 10 a.m.
During closing arguments in the trial against ex-firefighter Joe Carr, defense attorneys contended it’s “obvious that Carr put the body in the lake” — quickly adding that the “big question is who killed Veronica Navarro.”
Carr is accused of killing girlfriend Veronica Navarro in the summer of 2011.
Defense attorneys recognized Carr’s lack of testimony and said that his arrest is not an indication of guilt. They told jurors that the state is asking them to fill in the missing gaps in the case.
The medical examiner’s finding that asphyxia was Navarro’s cause of death also came into question as defense attorneys discussed it during the closing arguments, saying Navarro died of Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome or something similar.
Prosecutors during closing arguments said this case isn’t a “Law & Order” or “CSI: Miami” episode, saying the jury’s decision has an impact.
The defense rested its case just before noon Tuesday after bringing forward its only witness: lead case investigator for the Travis County Sheriff’s Office. The defense called Leal to the stand to clarify earlier testimony, passing her back and forth with prosecutors a few times before wrapping.
Attorneys asked if Navarro’s positive Facebook posts about Carr influenced Detective Sylvia Leal’s investigation, to which she responded that they had not. Leal added that all of Navarro’s Facebook posts confirmed she was living in Spicewood.
The defense rested its case after questioning Leal.
The prosecution wrapped its case Monday after jurors heard from a convenience store worker and a couple of border patrol agents, one from the United States and another from the Canadian border.
A Canadian Border Patrol agent from the Emerson-Manitoba port of entry told jurors that Carr raised a red flag when he claimed $2,000 in cash but had no backup sources of funds — such as credit or debit cards.
After pulling Carr over for an addition search of his car, the agent managed to get a hold of the Pedernales Fire Department to verify Carr’s employment. The agent’s research turned up another red flag in the data system when Carr popped up as a homicide suspect, and that’s when his entry to Canada was denied.
Turned away at the Canadian border, Carr headed back to enter the United States — where a U.S. Customs entry supervisor from North Dakota testified he stopped Carr’s blue KIA and searched both it and Carr for weapons.
While authorities found nothing inside the car, they took Carr to Pembina County Jail in North Dakota.
Jurors also heard Carr’s recorded jail conversations, one of which included a call to his mother.
He asked for her help, while she probed him about any wrongdoing or whether he had hurt Navarro. Carr avoided any questions regarding her.
In-Depth: More about Carr’s dealings at the border
On Thursday, Det. Sylvia Leal, the lead investigator in the case for the Travis County Sheriff’s Office, testified Carr tried to drive into Canada but was denied entry. She says customs officials secured Carr’s vehicle, a blue KIA Rio, until Travis County authorities could arrive in North Dakota.
In court, prosecutors showed pictures of the interior of the car. Investigators found clothes, backpacks, and a cooler inside.
After returning to Texas, crime scene investigators say they served a second search warrant at Carr’s Spicewood home.
There, they say they discovered a storage room that only opens to the outside. In that room, they found a tent bag that matches the brand of the tent Navarro’s body was found inside. Prosecutors presented evidence to show the product number on the tent bag matched the tent.