AUSTIN (KXAN) — Judge Cliff Brown sentenced former firefighter Joe Carr to 60 years in prison for killing his girlfriend Veronica Navarro and hiding her body. A separate 20-year sentence for tampering with evidence will run concurrently with the 60-year term.
On Tuesday, a Travis County jury deliberated less than an hour before returning its guilty verdict against 29-year-old Joe Carr, a former Pedernales Fire Department firefighter.
Prosecutors called on Carr’s former friends and co-workers during the sentencing phase of the trial Wednesday morning. One of Carr’s ex-friends said she met him in 2005. She recalled a date with Carr that allegedly got physical after she smelled alcohol on his breath and wanted to take him home.
The friend told jurors Carr pinned her down, tried to kiss her and wouldn’t let her get into her car. She decided not to press charges but did get a restraining order.
Another friend of Carr’s took the stand and said Carr had issues with his then-wife in 2006. The witness told the courtroom that Carr got angry when he saw men’s phone numbers on his wife’s phone and broke it.
Carr’s former co-worker took the stand, describing the interaction between Carr and his ex-wife. The co-worker said Carr would be rude and aggravated with her.
Another co-worker took the stand and told jurors Carr got mad once when she didn’t watch a YouTube video. The co-worker recounted overhearing a phone call between Carr and his ex-wife, saying he told her to have the TV and lights off by a certain time.
Still, one of the co-workers testified that Carr was reserved and would study the Bible during his free time at the Pedernales Fire Department. Church was the place where one person on the witness stand met Carr in 2009. The witness said the two went to Galveston the next year on a trip, adding that Carr would make inappropriate comments about women when he got drunk.
The next witness on the stand met Carr on a dating website in 2010, meeting him in person only a week later. She told the jury that Carr told her she wouldn’t be dating anyone else.
The women went on to say that Carr even told her over the phone before they met in person that she could move in with him, and he proposed to her three weeks into the relationship.
She dated Carr for 2 1/2 months, adding that he would quote romance movies and say things because they sounded good.
The state called another of Carr’s ex-girlfriends, who said they broke up after he proposed to her. She said he’d later text her photos of him and Navarro.
Prosecutors told jurors on Tuesday 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.
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.