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Co-defendants: Margarita Leanos unaware of robbery plan
Murder trial set for closing arguments, jury deliberation Tuesday
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Misty Moran is led into Hall County Superior Court on Monday after being summoned to testify during the murder trial of Margarita Leanos in the death of Isaias Tovar-Murillo, a taxi driver for Taxi El Palmar. In a separate case last week, Moran was found guilty of murder in Tovar-Murillo's death. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Co-defendants for a Gainesville woman claimed she had no knowledge of the plan to rob a taxi driver before the man’s death, according to testimony Monday.

The trial for Margarita “Maggie” Leanos, 28, began Monday in Superior Court Judge Jason Deal’s courtroom. Leanos faces a felony murder charge in relation to the death of Isaias Tovar-Murillo, 46, of Gainesville.

With the life prison sentence given to the accused triggerwoman Misty Sunshine Moran, 39, last week, Assistant District Attorney Shiv Sachdeva kicked off the trial with opening statements to the jury.

“In any criminal enterprise ... the two most important individuals in that crime are the person who holds the gun and the person who is the getaway driver,” Sachdeva said.

Investigators said they believe Moran got in a taxi with Tovar-Murillo, while Leanos followed behind with Ignacio Mondragon, 21, Nicholas Allen Gonzalez, 24, and Justin John Adams, 22. Mondragon, Gonzalez and Adams took a plea deal in August that allowed them to avoid prosecution for felony murder.

Tovar-Murillo was found March 15 with a gunshot wound to the back of his head in the wooded area around Barrett and Dorsey Peek roads.

Moran was found guilty of malice murder last week in Deal’s courtroom.

Following Sachdeva, Leanos’ attorney Lee Parks said the evidence would paint a different version of events with Leanos outside of the loop.

“They were not to tell Maggie the real plan, because if they did, Maggie would never go along,” Parks said.

Mondragon, one of three co-defendants to take the plea deal in August, testified he was on orders from Moran to keep Leanos unaware.

“That was one thing Misty instructed me. (Leanos) can’t know what we’re about to do,” Mondragon said, as Leanos allegedly gave her four co-defendants a ride to Lenox Park Apartments.

Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad Investigator Joe Amerling said testimony by Mondragon and Gonzalez contradicted previous statements to authorities.

Citing the gang ties for the co-defendants and its inherent culture of “no snitching,” Amerling said Mondragon was particularly combative in his last interview Friday.

“He screamed at me (that) he was going to be one of my street rats,” he said.

Days after the alleged robbery and slaying, Leanos’ car was searched. Investigators said they found baseball bats, a BB gun, knives and other items.

Parks insinuated with his question that some of the items — the BB gun and metal baseball bat — are similar to items a child might use.

The state rested before 4 p.m. Monday. Leanos elected not to testify.

The jury will return at 9:30 a.m. today for closing arguments and jury deliberation.

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