VICTORIA, Texas (AP) – A teenager living next door killed the founder of a popular San Antonio restaurant with an arrow before setting her house ablaze and bankrolling a spending spree on her credit cards, prosecutors told a jury Monday.
Joe Estrada Jr. pleaded not guilty, then listened as Bexar County prosecutors laid out how the 19-year-old allegedly killed the matriarch of the busy Los Barrios restaurant in San Antonio in 2008 and then brashly flaunted her stolen money and car around town.
Viola Barrios, who was born in Mexico and opened Los Barrios in 1979, was found dead with an arrowhead lodged in her skull. Prosecutors say Estrada killed his 76-year-old neighbor before stealing her silver Mercedes and credit cards.
Bexar County assistant district attorney Tamara Strauch recounted to jurors how Estrada, hours after Barrios was killed, allegedly bragged about his new car while getting his hair cut and highlighted at an upscale shopping mall.
“He said, ‘Hey Ricky, what do you drive?'” Strauch said Barrios told a hairstylist before pulling out a set of keys. “‘I drive a Mercedes.'”
Patrick Hancock, Estrada’s attorney, postponed making an opening statement to jurors until later in the trial. Estrada was 18 when he was arrested.
Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed said the trial will likely take several weeks, with the state expected to trot out witnesses into next week. The trial was moved about 120 miles away to Victoria because of intense media coverage.
Nestled well north of the more touristy River Walk, Los Barrios grew into a landmark adored by locals and in-the-know out-of-towners. In 2004, the family opened a second restaurant, La Hacienda de los Barrios, near the city’s wealthy northern suburbs.
Diana Barrios Trevino, Viola’s daughter, wrote a family cookbook and has appeared on the Food Network and on ABC’s “Good Morning America” with celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse. She testified that her mother, despite getting older, was in good health and still involved in the restaurant.
“She opened and closed. She always served (customers) with grace,” Barrios Trevino said.
According to prosecutors, Estrada broke into the home in April 2008 through one of the few windows not protected by burglar bars. Gasoline was used to a fuel a fire, Strauch said.
Prosecutors say Estrada then embarked on a day long spending spree. He allegedly used two of Barrios’ credit cards to buy a shirt at a designer store, around $800 in electronics, a cell phone and to get his hair styled.
After Estrada’s arrest, Strauch said he kept repeating, “I’m sorry. I did it.”
Prosecutors say Estrada’s family lived next door to Barrios for several years. Barrios had sold her home and was scheduled to move out less than two weeks before she died.