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Only on ABC-7: Justice delayed

It was nearly four years ago when three people, including a young teenage girl, were murdered in an East El Paso home.

Marysol Saldivar, her daughter, Cassaundra Holt, 13, and Saldivar’s boyfriend, Eric Desantiago, were found dead the morning of May 31, 2012.

“When I heard about it, I was at work,” Holt’s grandmother, Cassaundra Robinson, told ABC-7. “I don’t remember what happened. People told me I was screaming.

“I thank God for things I don’t remember.”

Robinson would rather talk about what she does remember about her grandchild, who was named for her.

“Cassaundra was a child (who) wanted peace between everybody,” she said. “She never wanted for there to be drama or hurt feelings or hostility. I think that is why she was born. She was the peacemaker.”

Peace has been hard to come by for Robinson, and the other families of the victims.

The man accused in the triple homicide, Luis Solis Gonzalez, has pleaded not guilty. But he has been sitting in the El Paso County Jail since he turned himself in to authorities shortly after the murders. Solis Gonzalez, Saldivar’s ex-husband and Holt’s stepfather, has not gone to trial.

“We were under the impression that we were on our way,” Robinson said. “(We thought) this is finally going to be taken to court (and) we would be able to go on with the grieving process. … We’ve been going to status hearings for almost four years, learning all kind of horrific things (about the murders), to hear absolutely nothing.”

Robinson often attends the court hearings with Betty Aguilar, Desantiago’s older sister. The women did not know each other until their violent losses thrust them together.

The women agreed to speak to ABC-7 about the case, sitting together in Aguilar’s living room in Northeast El Paso.

“Everyday, (we’re) just wondering, ‘Maybe today. Maybe we’ll get a call. Maybe something will happen,'” said Aguilar. “We just trust God that He will bring it to pass at the right time, and justice will be served.”

But for now, justice is delayed.

Solis Gonzalez’s capital murder trial is on hold indefinitely, pending a decision by the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals.

At issue is a law recently passed by the Texas Legislature. The law allows for defendants to request that all evidence potentially containing biological evidence, such as DNA, be tested.

Solis Gonzalez’s court-appointed attorney, Joe Spencer, requested testing be conducted on all 200 pieces of evidence in the case.

“This is a death penalty case, and we shouldn’t take any shortcuts on death penalty cases,” Spencer told ABC-7. “It’s very important that a thorough investigation be done.”

In a ruling signed Jan. 9, 2015, 243rd District Court Judge Luis Aguilar stated that the defense did not supply enough justification to “legally support any further delay of the trial.” The judge turned over the dispute to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to find a resolution.

The El Paso district attorney’s office confirmed with ABC-7 that the Texas Department of Public Safety has completed testing all the evidence.
But officials in the office told ABC-7 that the trial can’t move forward until court rules on whether all the testing was necessary, creating a precedent for other trials.

This is one of the first cases in the state in which the defense applied the law, and the first in El Paso County.

“What would be a real tragedy is if we rushed to trial in this case and there was some procedural error or constitutional error. (And in) 10 to 15 years from now we are trying this case again,” said Spencer.

District Attorney Jaime Esparza voiced the same sentiment to ABC-7.

“If we were to take a shortcut, (or) if we were to do something in a haphazard way, the process may not be fair, and the result may not be what the community deserves,” said Esparza. “Because the penalty is so severe, it takes more time.

“I wish we could do more for the families, but the process requres that we do it right because we are seeking the death penalty,” added Esparza.

Robinson said she understands the law and the necessity to follow protocol. But she told ABC-7 the prolonged wait for a trial is “tantamount to torture.”

“We live our entire lives in limbo. Every celebration. Every birthday. Every holiday,” Robinson said. “We cannot get on with it. Why? Because we have this impending doom.”

Robinson said she doesn’t like talking about the trial. But once asked how she felt knowing it was on hold indefinitely, her words poured out of her as though she’d been holding back for months.

“(Cassaundra’s) never going to come back,” Robinson said. “They’re never going to be with us. But what happens to the right to a speedy trial?

“This is cruel and unusual punishment for us to have to wait four years. It’s almost like we’re doing the time. It’s almost like we’re imprisoned. We’re in a jail that we never put ourselves in,” she continued. “The biggest injustice is for us not to have justice.”

Considering there is no deadline for the Court of Criminal Appeals to issue a ruling, Robinson and Aguilar are forced to continue waiting for justice.

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