HOUSTON—A jury has found a retired Baytown firefighter guilty of murder in the killing of his neighbor in a dispute over loud music.
Closing arguments were delivered Wednesday in the murder trial of 47-year-old Raul Rodriguez.
It happened in May 2010 outside New Caney P.E. teacher Kelly Danaher’s home in rural northeast Harris County. Danaher was hosting a party that Rodriguez, who lives nearby, said was too loud.
Rodriguez, his attorneys claim, called police several times before confronting the party-goers with a flashlight, gun and video camera. They said he was within his rights when he opened fire on Danaher and his two friends.
“There are tragedies that occur every day around the country, but just because there is a tragedy and there is a family left behind, that does not mean that a crime has been committed,” said defense attorney Neil Davis.
But prosecutors said Wednesday that Rodriguez had a very good understanding of the law and he tried to use that as a license to intimidate neighbors.
“This is about the neighborhood bully armed with a CHL, with an arsenal of weapons and a knowledge of the law,” prosecutor Donna Logan said. “He felt like he had ultimate control. The control to determine who lives and who dies.”
Jurors last week viewed a 22-minute video in which Rodriguez claimed he feared for his life, and acted in self-defense when he shot and killed Danaher, and wounded party-goers Ricky Johnson and Marshall Stetson.
During trial, prosecutors called a neighbor to the stand who poked holes in those self-defense claims, and portrayed Rodriguez as trigger-happy.
Terri Hackathorn testified how Rodriguez often bragged about his arsenal of weapons, and she recalled an “unusual conversation” she and Rodriguez had a couple of months before the shooting.
Hackathorn testified Rodriguez came to her home excited about a new gun he bought, and coaching her about Texas’ “stand your ground” laws.
“As long as you tell authorities you fear for your life, than you can shoot (any) son of a bi**h,” Hackathorn said Rodriguez told her.
Jurors also heard emotional testimony from widow Mindy Danaher Tuesday morning. She testified how she had no idea the neighbor’s noise complaint had escalated to violence.
“Everybody was hollering ‘call 911, call 911,’ and everybody was freaking out,” Mindy Danaher said.
She said she heard a gunshot and ran into the house. Minutes later, when Mindy Danaher returned outside, she found her husband’s body in the front yard.
“I just dropped. I wasn’t expecting him to be over there. I just dropped to the ground,” she said.
The defense didn’t call any witnesses.