By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Area taxi drivers on edge after recent slaying
Cabbies now cautious when picking up fares after shooting; 5 people arrested in case
0328 TAXI 0001
Erbey Rebollar speaks Friday about some of the precautions taxi drivers in his company take to stay safe while on the job. Rebollar’s father owns Taxi El Palmar in Gainesville. - photo by Erin O. Smith

It still doesn’t seem real to Erbey Rebollar and the family business at Taxi El Palmar.

Although the company’s independent contractors driving the cabs have faced dangerous situations before, driver Isaias Tovar-Murillo’s death March 15 has left them in shock.

“Right now, it still really hasn’t sunk in yet. We’re still in that stage where we just can’t believe it,” said Rebollar, whose father owns the business.

Five suspects from Gainesville — three men and two women — were indicted Thursday on charges connected to Tovar-Murillo’s death.

Misty Sunshine Moran, 39, Margarita Jean Leanos, 28, Nicholas Allen Gonzalez, 24, Justin John Adams, 22, and Ignacio Mondragon, 21, face a charge of felony murder.

Moran, also known as Misty Sunshine Banda-Lopez, faces an additional count of felony murder and a count of malice murder.

Authorities believe Moran shot Tovar-Murillo on and around the back of the head, according to warrants and the indictment, after a planned robbery.

The grand jury returned a 17-count indictment against the five accused.

Taxi El Palmar, according to Erbey’s brother Mateo, is a system where independent contractors can either rent or own the vehicle. Some choose to work full days while others drive part-time.

“We will take the call and we’ll pass it out, but we don’t obligate them to go,” Mateo Rebollar said.

The business has had some robberies in the past, and it hasn’t been the first time a gun was drawn, Mateo Rebollar said.

“We had a case a few years ago, five years ago, the cab driver shot the robber,” he said. “Shot him, I think, twice in the hand. The reason they caught him is because he went to the hospital and they caught him up there.”

Dangerous calls like that is the reason that Gillsville resident Maria Romero, who has driven for Uni Taxi for more than two years, stays away from random callers.

“I’m not going to risk myself to get random calls from people that just waste your time and are aggressive,” she said.

In the past, she said she drove a man who became threatening, grabbing her and pulling her toward the back seat of the cab. She tapped the car in front of her to grab the driver’s attention, causing the man to run away.

Her strategy now for the past few years has been to take people to the poultry processing plants, restaurants and other places every single day.

“As a single mom with two kids in college, I’ve got to make sure I bring my money home in a safe way,” Romero said.

Since Tovar-Murillo’s death, Mateo Rebollar said drivers are on higher alert.

“They’re being more cautious of who they’re picking up,” he said. “They’re being a little picky, and a lot of them are afraid. They were shocked, all of them.”

Everyone knew Tovar-Murillo, Mateo Rebollar said, as a driver in the community for roughly 15 years.

There are always certain streets at certain times that drivers stay away from, Erbey Rebollar said.

“There’s really not a whole lot that we do that protects us other than being careful who we pick up, but other than that it’s like any other job,” he added.

Regional events