EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – This week, Curtis Cox – a lead prosecutor for the El Paso County District Attorney’s Office – offered to allow a Juárez man wanted for murder to bond out of jail at a reduced price, but later backtracked, saying he’d seek a capital murder charge for the man and possibly the death penalty.

The event unfolded during a recent stream of a court hearing involving Ivan Gabaldon, a 20-year-old accused of murdering 63-year-old Juan Garcia Flores in March. Court documents say Gabaldon allegedly stabbed Garcia during a paid sexual encounter at a building on Texas Avenue.

A police document outlining the events says Garcia allegedly began to try acts that Gabaldon did not consent to, and that’s when Gabaldon allegedly stabbed Garcia repeatedly.

Gabaldon is behind bars at the El Paso County Detention Facility under a felony murder charge. He was jailed on February 28 and is being kept on a $1 million bond.

It has been eight months since the events transpired, and now Gabaldon’s lawyers say they are ready for the jury trial scheduled on December 2, but they are accusing the District Attorney’s Office of stalling the case.

The District Attorney’s Office did not answer questions provided by KTSM 9 News and emailed a short statement. The court issued a gag order on all individuals involved in the case, including family members, from speaking with the press 13 minutes after the station reached out to the District Attorney’s office for comment.

Still taken from YouTube live stream of Curtis Cox.

“No comment,” the statement said.

On a YouTube stream of a final conference on Tuesday, criminal defense attorneys Omar Carmona and Denise Butterworth told district court judge Alyssa Perez late filings by the District Attorney’s Office were untimely.

Cox, senior division chief for the DA’s Office, admitted he had not wholly reviewed the files associated with the case, and his office filed a motion for continuance or to change the date of the trial.

He stated there is a concern in case law that involves the need to see the face of jurors and did not want to see an appeal because they wore masks.

Cox also said he is scheduled for a jury selection the day after the trial; forensic testing in the case had not returned, and there are three witnesses the office has not located.

Defense attorney Omar Carmona said Gabaldon has been in custody and wants the case to be tried “right away.” His family in Mexico needs his help because he has not supported them being in jail, Carmona added.

A still of Tuesday’s court hearing on YouTube.

“I understand Mr. Cox’s concern. If he has jury duty, he has jury duty,” Carmona said. “Your honor, by my count, there have been at least seven different prosecutors that have had some hand in this case. Two are no longer with the DA’s office. I am gonna insist that people had had a hand in this case, and we are ready to try this case judge.”

Cox then replied, saying he would not oppose Gabaldon bonding out of jail as his office sought rescheduling of the trial.

“Since I am moving for a continuance, I am not going to take the position that I am opposed to the court lowering the defendant’s bond to an amount that he could afford and get out,” Cox said.

“He can’t afford it,” Carmona answered. “It’s got to be a PR bond, or we’re in the same situation.”

“Because the state is saying ‘it is not ready,’ I am not going to object to that,” Cox replied.

Judge Perez interjected, saying she did not think it was fair to the court to have so much time pass while an individual is in jail. She said she understood some of the DA’s office’s concerns in their request for a new trial date but did take issue with locating witnesses.

“But certainly with respect to the witnesses, obviously does bring me concern because you’re at a disadvantage as well,” she said. “Unfortunately, I think that’s on you all for not. We’ve been on this case for quite a while.”

Cox then replied, saying he’d pursue a more serious charge for Gabaldon.

“And, your honor, just to be completely transparent, I am also planning to take this case back to the grand jury to reindict it as a capital murder,” Cox said. “That will happen, assuming we can get a quorum before the trial date in this case. And, then we will decide whether to seek the death penalty.

“The evidence I’ve seen paints a very clear picture that this was an intentional killing in the course of a furtherance of a robbery.”

Gabaldon’s attorneys were critical of Cox’s position and criticized the DA’s office handling of the case.

“We’re in a situation with weeks before our trial; now, we’re looking at a capital murder. My thought is, this is just a way to delay,” Carmona said. “We are ready, and if they indict, your honor, we are willing to waive our ten days.”

Criminal defense attorney Denise Butterworth also said the DA’s office did not adequately prepare for the case.

“Because what it is showing the court and hopefully the record will be clear, that there is a lack of preparation, regardless of who decides they are going to be first chair, second chair, third chair,” Butterworth said. “This date has been in the books for a while. It is on, as a whole, the DA’s office to be ready for trial.”

Since Yvonne Rosales took office, the District Attorney’s Office has not held a jury trial in a murder case. There are currently two pending Capital Murder death penalty cases; both occurred in 2019 and do not have a set trial date. One includes the case against Patrick Crusius, the accused shooter in the August 3 attack on an East Side Walmart.

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