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Murder defendant testifies
Tepanca recounts events from day of shooting
Witness Alicia Hernandez indicates where she was standing to a defense attorney Thursday during the trial of defendant Hugo Moguel Tepanca at the Hall County Superior Court. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

While Hugo Moguel Tepanca told an investigator he shot a man to death in a fit of road rage, he gave a different version of events from a courtroom witness stand Thursday.

Tepanca, testifying in his own defense during his murder trial in Hall County Superior Court, said he was “trying to work things out” in a dispute over a woman when he shot 23-year-old Jose Sanchez “Marcos” Vargas multiple times outside a Merck Street home.

His testimony was met with skepticism by Chief Assistant District Attorney Lindsay Burton during her cross-examination of the defendant.

“After you fired the first shot into him, did you still think you could work things out?” Burton asked.

“My thoughts were no longer working,” Tepanca responded through a courtroom interpreter.

Tepanca, 30, is seeking a jury verdict of voluntary manslaughter rather than murder.

On Thursday, his recounting of events on April 20, 2008, included many details he never told in a videotaped interrogation after the shooting. During that interview with investigators, Tepanca said Vargas, who he had never met before, looked at his wife wrong and made an obscene hand gesture in traffic.

Tepanca testified Thursday that on the day of the shooting, he saw Vargas outside a home talking to Alicia Hernandez, a woman with whom Tepanca was having an affair. Tepanca approached Vargas’ SUV and asked him what he was doing and Vargas replied that it was “none of his business,” Tepanca testified.

Tepanca said that in a distraught fit of jealousy, he pulled a handgun out and fired a shot into the ground.

“I didn’t know if I should shoot myself or shoot toward the ground,” Tepanca said. “I shot toward the ground.”

Hernandez, another witness for the defense, described the same episode to the jury.

Tepanca said shortly after firing the shot, he left the home alone in his truck. He said he encountered Vargas in traffic a short time later in traffic and words were exchanged, with Vargas making threats.

The encounter ended in front of a Merck Street home, where Vargas parked his SUV and exited the car. Tepanca remained in his truck.
Tepanca said Vargas made a motion toward him with his right hand, “and that’s when I shot him.”

Vargas, who was unarmed, was shot several times.

“Were you still fearful he was going to hurt you when you shot him in the back?” Burton asked the defendant.

“Honestly, I didn’t know where it was I shot him,” Tepanca said.

Jurors have the day off today in the case, which is expected to resume Monday with closing arguments.

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