Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Shawna Forde


Although prosecutors believed they could put forward a strong case full of intrigue and alliances between drug dealers and Minutemen, there was a deficit of physical evidence placing Shawna Forde in the Arivaca home on May 30, 2009.

Even Gina Gonzalez, the survivor and star witness, could not positively identify Forde as the woman who had invaded her home that night. After pointing to the defendant, Gonzalez admitted "I don't know her, and I can't say she's the person that came into my house." She described the female as "short and heavy-set" with "brownish" hair. It was a description that fit Shawna Forde, but could have fit any number of women, including Albert Gaxiola's girlfriend Gina Moraga, who the defense intimated may have been the woman at the Arivaca home that night.

Shawna Forde
Shawna Forde
The State also called Chuck Stonex, an army veteran and Minuteman, whom Shawna Forde phoned to come help treat a fellow Minuteman's injured leg after the incident. Stonex and fellow Minuteman Laine Lawless stopped by Gaxiola's house at 8 a.m. the morning after the shooting to treat Bush (whom Stonex only knew by his nickname "Gunny") and concluded the gunshot wound would be best cared for in a hospital. Forde told Stonex they couldn't do that because Bush didn't have insurance or money for treatment. As Stonex cleaned the wound, Forde mentioned that Bush had painted his face for the previous night's mission (as Gonzalez had testified). Stonex quoted Forde as saying, "You ought to see how scary he is with his face blacked out."

After agreeing to a plea arrangement that would free him long before the maximum 15 years he faced, Oin Oakstar took the stand as a prosecution witness. Oakstar gave more details about Gaxiola's feud with Raul "Junior" Flores, that after stealing Flores' marijuana Albert Gaxiola had known he needed to kill Flores or else face retaliation. Oakstar said Gaxiola had told him that Shawna Forde might be able to help them with their Flores problem because she needed money to fund her Minuteman operations. Oakstar said he had known about the home invasion plan, but had not agreed with it because he had felt that endangering Flores' family went against an unwritten ethical code among drug dealers. On May 29, when Gaxiola stopped by to get Oakstar for the home invasion, Oakstar told him he was too inebriated to join them.

Perhaps the hardest circumstantial evidence for Forde's defense team to counter was the jewelry belonging to Gina Gonzalez found in Shawna's vehicle. If Forde had not been part of the plot, how had the stolen goods found their way into her possession? Making matters worse were letters from Forde to her grown children asking them to identify the jewelry as Forde's. Not realizing that jailhouse letters to friends and family are not privileged communications, authorities had read them and entered them into evidence at trial. The defense could only contend that Gaxiola must have given Forde the jewelry during one of their police-surveilled meetings after the crime.

Ultimately, Shawna Forde chose not to take the stand in her own defense.


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