We can now say what we were thinking all along: Diaz is guilty

Life goes on. Here we see (left to right) Pacific Coast Boxing Gym's boxing coach Peter Moreno with boxers, Felix Verdin, Nicholas Lopez, and Roman Gonzalez, along with boxing coach Hector Gil, Jr. posing for a photo after a competition they entered at The Compound in Oceanside, Ca. Photo credit: Jim Wyatt

It’s over. It took awhile (one year and 20 days) but in the end our court system triumphed. Like with Osama Bin Laden, Mark Anthony Diaz will now be punished.  The case against Diaz proceeded to jury trial on April 8. After two weeks of trial, a jury of his peers, six women and six men convicted Mark Diaz of First Degree Murder, Attempted Murder, Assault with a Semiautomatic Firearm and Criminal Threats. The jury also found the gun use allegations.  The jury reached their verdict after less than two days of deliberations.

They decided that on April 7, 2010, at or about 9 p.m., the 50 year old former boxing trainer did in fact shoot and kill Hector Gil, a 52 year old volunteer boxing coach in the Pacific Coast Boxing gym in Vista, CA, as well as wound two other people, fellow volunteer boxing coach Peter Moreno and 21 year-old boxer Ricardo Gutierrez.


At the time of the murder, two of the victims, Gil and Moreno were sitting on the ring’s apron. Gil’s son was near watching over Gil’s two young grand children as they ran about the small gym. Within seconds that harmony was taken from them as a gunman started shooting up the place, firing seven lethal bullets in their direction. The young boxer, Gutierrez, moved quickly in a failed attempt to dodge the bullets. The egregious act was supposedly in response to the 21 year old switching over to train with Gil instead of Diaz.

When later asked about his reason for switching his allegiance as far as coaches, he was very blunt. He believed coach Diaz was getting a bit erratic in his behavior and felt certain he had started using drugs, most likely meth.

All drugs are bad but meth amphetamines can be the worst. It’s a powerfully addictive stimulant that dramatically effects your central nervous system. Initially, the effects of meth can be characterized by increased mental and physical well-being. With increased doses or chronic use, the risk of toxicity increases and the user can experience irritation, outbursts of anger, paranoia, delusional thinking and visual or auditory hallucinations.

Not that I’m a physician, but this would go a long way to explain the radical change in Mark Diaz’s behavior.

Back to the facts that proved his guilt:

Today, the prosecuting attorney, Deputy District Attorney Patrick Espinoza, graciously gave me a few minutes to discuss some of the finer points of this trial and the smoke screens or obstacles placed in front of him by the unscrupulous (my word choice) defense attorneys.

“Strictly speaking, the case went to the jury at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, April 22, 2011. Jury deliberations resumed Monday, April 25 and by 3 p.m. Wednesday, April 27, the verdict of guilty was read.”

It’s been reported that when the verdicts were read, Diaz betrayed his tough exterior and started crying. He never made eye contact with the judge.

Regarding witness #1: The proceedings got off to a rather shaky start with the ultra shy 14 year-old next door neighbor who was sitting in the family auto and talking to his girlfriend on his cell phone. He heard the shots, and more importantly established the time-line. He also saw the weapon and described the shooter as a stocky gentleman wearing a dark sweat shirt with a hood.

Witness #2, Alexander Castellano, testified that he, his family and friends saw this guy driving a big, charcoal grey lifted Nissan Titan truck with oversized tires. He drove recklessly, went over a parking divider and then parked in the bottom front corner of the Shopping Center’s parking lot. Within minutes, they heard six shots, then saw the same man run back to the same truck. He said there was a white decal on the center back window of the truck and described the clothes the man was wearing as a dark hoodie. He later identified the same truck for police.

Witnesses #3 and #4, David Santiago and Jose Gonzalez were the buddies who went to dinner with Castellano. They agreed fully with Castellano’s version and concurred they had seen this shiny item hanging out the person’s back pocket. Gonzalez recalled seeing the familiar Titan emblem and seeing that same truck off and on in front of the gym.

When the defense tried to poke holes in Gonzalez’s testimony, they got lambasted. At that late hour with only the lights of the shopping center, how could he be so sure about the make of the vehicle? Gonzalez worked at a dealership and had recently been shopping for a Nissan Titan. He also noticed the missing emblem on the rear tailgate.

Witness #5 17 year-old Nicholas Lopez said he only lives five walking minutes from the gym and got a call from Diaz on the night of the murder to stay away from the gym. Approximately, ten minutes later he heard the gunshots from the gym. He said he thought Diaz sounded a bit upset that evening.

Witness #6 Trainer/Cut man Albert Gamez testified that Gil told him in February and March that Diaz was upset with Gil because Gutierrez, who had just turned professional, had switched from Diaz over to Gil to be his trainer. He also listened to two voice mails from Diaz that threatened Gil’s life.

Gamez, who knew both the defendant and the victim, testified Diaz called him last February and asked him not to help Gutierrez with an upcoming fight because Diaz and Gutierrez had a disagreement and Gutierrez decided to train with Gil.

The witness added that Gil told him Diaz had been threatening him. At a second fighter’s bout, the Danny Perez versus Erislandy Lara fight at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 2, 2010, Gil had Gamez listen to more voice mail messages from Diaz. That was only five days before the murder.

Gamez testified, “Diaz left a message saying he was ‘going to blast him or shoot him.’ He said, `I’m going to blast you, I’m going to shoot you. You’re gonna die.’ He (Gil) was clearly bothered by it.”

Gamez went on to say he tried to call Diaz to explain why he was helping Gutierrez, but Diaz never returned his calls.

“Diaz left another message for Gil that said, ‘You’re (fu@&#i^g) with the wrong person. You watch. You watch. You’re gonna get yours.”

Witness #7 Salvador Gonzalez, who took his son to train at Pacific Coast Gym, said he and Gil became close, and the victim also confided in him before the shooting that Diaz had threatened to hurt him because he had taken his fighter.

Witness #8 Ricardo Gutierrez said Diaz sued him for a $5,000 breach of contract suit but ended up settling out of court for $1,500. He also listened to the threatening voice mails to Gil from Diaz. On the voice mails, Diaz threatened to harm the victim if Gil didn’t settle their differences. To this day, Gutierrez still feels pain in his leg after being shot. “The bullet shattered my fibula and tibia in half.”

It was just after Gutierrez entered into a contract with Gil, that Gil got that threatening phone call from Diaz stating he was going to “bust a cap.”

Witness #9 came from a reluctant source, Peter Scanlon, who told the presiding judge he didn’t want to be there. He was a bosom buddy of Diaz and had told the police earlier he saw a semiautomatic pistol inside Diaz’s home. This was by far the most damaging evidence.

Witness #10 Peter Moreno testified the bullet that went through Gil, hit him in the left shoulder. “It missed my artery by a hair…or there could have been two people dead.”

Witness #11 Hector Gil Jr., Gil’s son, said he ran towards the gym’s entrance when the shots ended and started chasing after the gunman, but stopped when someone suddenly turned off the lights. He said the suspect was wearing a sweatshirt with a distinctive “T” Triumph MMA logo. The same sweatshirt matching the description of the sweat shirt recovered during a search of Diaz’s home.

Witness #12 was the no nonsense Deputy Sheriff/Homicide Detective Mark Palmer. He had information from an eyewitness who said they lived nearby, heard the shots and went directly to a window overlooking the gym’s parking lot. The witness stated he was certain it was Diaz, “I don’t believe it, I know it,” he said.

In the prosecutor’s questioning of the Homicide Detective, the detective stated that gunshot residue was found on the steering wheel of the truck Diaz drove and on the black sweat shirt which they confiscated from his home.

Witness #13 was Susan Marie Smith, Mark Diaz’s girlfriend for the past six years. She, more than any other witness, took her time to mull over each response. She didn’t help Diaz’s cause when she answered: “He left the house around 8:30 p.m. and didn’t arrive home until after 10 p.m.” The prosecutor then asked, “Did he tell you where he was?” “No,” was her response. The idea that any common law wife or girlfriend wouldn’t demand or require a response seems farfetched.

Witness #14, an alibi from a drinker at a dive bar called the Golden Tee Cocktail Lounge in Carlsbad went no where. He didn’t remember much of anything that happened that night. It was one of the Defense’s feeble ploys to create doubt. Or, maybe because of the bars convenient location near the I 5, it was part of Diaz’s plan to establish a time frame alibi by driving like a maniac to and from in under 10 minutes.

Judge Kerry Wells, a well respected judge, insured that there would be no slip-ups in this high profile murder case. Wells is known in judicial circles as the prosecutor who on her second attempt sent socialite murderer Betty Broderick to prison for 32 years to life for the murder of her former husband and his fiance in 1990.

Witness #15 The Defense’s third and final attempt to create doubt involved Bill Dean, a gentleman who helps out at the gym. Dean was known for wearing a similar dark hoodie. Before leaving that night he had words with Moreno and Gil about keeping the place clean. The pointing of fingers at someone else got them nowhere since Dean returned to the gym and helped in every way he could with the investigation to include being tested for gunpowder residue on his skin and dark pull over.

So, from arrest to arraignment, from Preliminary hearing to the actual court case, our Judicial System did a bang-up job. All that is left is the sentencing on June 3rd, when the murderer faces the possibility of 75 years to life behind bars.

I know it’s of little consolation to the victims but the District Attorney’s office and especially Deputy District Attorney Patrick Espinoza did a wonderful, painstaking job of convicting the man who took Hector Gil from us.

Still, Hector Gil’s family and many friends would give anything to have him back. They’d relish the thought of sitting down with him and reminiscing, sharing a beverage and talking over family matters and the sport he truly loved. They’d give anything to see him smile and get one of his warm embraces.


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