ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Nearly two years since a Sandia High School student was shot to death outside of an Albuquerque house party, opening statements were held Wednesday in the trial of the man accused in the killing. Izaiah Garcia, 20, is facing first-degree murder, aggravated assault and evidence tampering charges for his role in the 2019 shooting.
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Sean Markey, 17, died in the shooting. It happened early Sunday morning, Sept. 29, 2019, outside of a home on Garcia Street near Eubank and Montgomery, which was hosting a high school homecoming after-party. According to court documents, gunfire erupted outside of the home when a stray bullet struck and killed Markey.
In court filings, prosecutors have alleged the shooting took place after Garcia confronted a man who he had a “longstanding grudge against.” Court documents allege that grudge stemmed from a 2018 incident where the man is accused of pistol-whipping one of Garcia’s friends. Prosecutors argue that Garcia fired shots in the direction of the man with who he had a grudge with, but the gunfire hit Markey instead.
“As the friendship grew, so did the grudge. Garcia built a grudge which he could not let go,” prosecutor R. John Duran told the jury during opening statements. “He manifests his grudge, he manifests his hatred, at Christian Maddock, at that precise moment, when there’s chaos all around and gunfire going off down the street at that house.”
Garcia’s defense attorney argues, in part, that multiple people fired guns during the shooting that killed Markey. In prior court documents, Markey’s defense has stated, “most of the individuals that were firing guns that night have never been identified and ballistics evidence cannot identify which (bullet) casing is connected to the bullet that killed Mr. Markey.” His attorney also made the plea to jurors that alcohol and drugs were being used at the party which could impair the memory or judgment of testimony from witnesses who were there.
“Who killed Sean Markey? That’s the question that needs to be answered during this trial. That’s a question that will not be answered during this trial,” Defense Attorney Nicole Moss told the courtroom Wednesday. “The police department took a tunnel view. They knew where they wanted their investigation to lead to Izaiah Garcia. They focused on him and they sought out evidence that led to him. While doing that though, they ignored the evidence that pointed in another direction.”
Prosecutors say leading up to the party, invites were spread like wildfire through social media apps like Snapchat and Instagram, leading to the three different groups of boys winding up at the same party, including Garcia, the teen he disliked, and Markey. Surveillance video from a nearby home during opening statements shows the muzzle flashes that went off when prosecutors say Garcia opened fire. The jury also heard testimony from the first few witnesses to be called, including the friend who was sitting with Markey before the gunfire erupted.
“Party was getting a little too hectic after that girl’s door got kicked down. We just walked down to the corner and sat on the two rocks,” said Joseph Taylor, a friend of Markey, during testimony, noting that after they heard gunshots, the two started running. “Sean said, ‘I think I got shot.'”
Markey’s friend told prosecutors they were together when they started running but were about four feet apart when Markey noticed he was shot, though he didn’t see it actually happen. He went on to say they continued to run a few more feet before Markey fell, so Taylor picked him up and pulled him off to the side. Shortly after, their ride came and they took Markey to Kaseman Hospital nearby.
Garcia’s friend also testified. Prosecutors asked what Garcia did when the person he allegedly had a grudge with, took off running after they came face-to-face outside.
“When I turned around to face where those second shots were, I saw Izaiah shooting two to three more bullets from his gun while Christian was running,” said Tanner White. He went on to say he saw the others continued to run down the street.
During his testimony, White told the jury he originally lied to detectives after the shooting because he said he was “scared of retaliation from Izaiah.” He said he was also afraid of being arrested.
“There was someone who did die at that party. With the knowledge that I knew at the time, there was a possibility that it was because of someone that I knew,” said White. “I felt guilty for trying to withhold that information.”
Garcia’s murder trial in the death of Sean Markey is expected to last up to eight days of arguments in Bernalillo County District Court. Jury selection in the case began on Monday and continued into Tuesday. The trial is expected to wrap up late next week.
Garcia is also connected to another murder case involving the October 2019 shooting death of 21-year old Cayla Campos. That case is still pending in Bernalillo County District Court and is not connected to the trial over Markey’s death. A trial is scheduled for later this year.