Felon Suspected of Killing Woman in Indio in 2016 Re-Enters Not Guilty Pleas

City News Service Pristine Villarreal

INDIO (CNS) – A convicted felon suspected of fatally shooting a woman outside of a garage in Indio in 2016 re-entered a not guilty plea to murder and other charges Thursday.

Marcos Cruz Gaeta, 42, initially pleaded not guilty to the murder charge and one felony count of being a convicted felon and narcotic addict in possession of a firearm and a sentence-enhancing allegation of discharging a firearm causing great bodily injury on March 12, 2019.

At the end of the preliminary hearing Feb. 3, Riverside County Superior Court Judge John J. Ryan ruled that there was sufficient evidence to warrant a trial for Gaeta on both charges. He re-entered the not guilty pleas Thursday morning at the Larson Justice Center in Indio.

Gaeta was arrested on March 8, 2019 in Cathedral City on a fugitive warrant stemming from the Aug. 28, 2016, killing of 30-year-old Jamie Maher of Indio, according to the Indio Police Department.

During a preliminary hearing, the prosecution brought in witnesses who allege that Gaeta shot Maher several times outside of the garage at a residence on Santa Rosa Avenue.

Angela Shaw, the daughter of the woman who owned the residence, testified that she was in her room at the time of the shooting with her back against the window that faced the garage area where she said “Smokey,” the defendant, shot Maher.

“At first I heard one (gunshot) and then that’s what made me look out my window and I saw (Maher) running out of my garage and him reloading his gun and then shooting her another six more times in the stomach,” Shaw said. “… It happened so fast, I couldn’t really correlate in my mind what was going on and I couldn’t really like focus or think.”

Monique Rivas and her husband Hector “Whiskey” Rivera, who were at the residence the same day, testified that they didn’t tell law enforcement about Gaeta’s involvement in the shooting after it occurred because they were fearful.

Rivas said she believed he had someone follow her in a red truck for miles and hit her a few weeks after the incident and Rivera alleged that Gaeta took him on a drive and told him that if anyone said anything or talked to anybody about anything then it would be “another body under his belt.”

“That’s the code we live by. We live by the code of what you see you don’t say and what you see you don’t tell nobody else, you keep it to yourself. The day you open your mouth, you know, there’s consequences behind it,” Rivera said. “When you got your family involved, you know, it’s hard.”

Gaeta’s defense attorney Melanie Roe alleged that there was a rumor of Whiskey being the shooter because, per his testimony as well, he was at the residence when it occurred, more often than not carried a firearm, and drove away in his truck shortly after the shots were fired.

Maher was found shot multiple times on the evening of Aug. 28, 2016, at a home in the 82300 block of Santa Rosa Avenue, according to police. Responding officers performed CPR on Maher, but she died at the scene a short time later.

“When arrested in the area of Date Palm Drive and Ramon Road in Cathedral City, he was armed with a loaded handgun, but was safely taken into custody,” according to Indio police.

Maher’s mother told KESQ shortly after his arrest, “Where Jamie is, she doesn’t need justice, but our family needs justice and the community needs justice.”

Gaeta is being held at the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside without bail.

Gaeta has pleaded guilty to several crimes, including a felony child abuse charge in March 2011 and a felony burglary charge in May 2000, according to court records.

Copyright 2023, City News Service, Inc.

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