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Co-defendant in ’05 home invasion shooting testifies

By Staff | Apr 16, 2009

Dave Gaphoor, Anibal Morales, Christopher Neuberger, Miguel Pedraza and Elizabeth Reed spent the evening of Nov. 23, 2005, driving around in a Ford Expedition, sniffing cocaine, smoking marijuana and scouring Lee County for a group of Hispanics to rob at gunpoint.
That is the picture Reed painted Wednesday as she took the stand against Gaphoor in day two of his trial in the slaying of 25-year-old Jose Gomez.
Gaphoor faces a life prison sentence if convicted of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted second-degree murder, one count of aggravated battery and one count of attempted home invasion robbery.
He is accused in a break-in at 18060 Nalle Road, North Fort Myers, that led to Gomez being shot through the heart and several others injured.
When Reed was arrested in January 2006, she faced the same charges Gaphoor is facing.
However, Reed agreed to testify as a state’s witness not only against Gaphoor, but also in an unrelated case, in exchange for a lighter prison sentence — taking the death penalty or life sentence off the table.
Reed now faces 10 years in prison and 15 years on state probation for second-degree murder and home invasion robbery. She will be sentenced Monday.
Initial statements Reed made to Lee County Sheriff’s detectives indicated Pedraza was not involved in the robbery.
She later admitted Pedraza suggested a robbery of the Nalle Road home because his uncle, Rafael Tinoco, housed 17 Hispanic construction workers there, testimony revealed.
“As long as you testify to what (state attorneys) expect, you feel you’ve upheld your part of the bargain,” Kathleen Fitzgeorge, Gaphoor’s defense attorney, told Reed.
Fitzgeorge asked if Reed changed her statement at the whims of the State Attorney’s Office, “because you believed it was in your best interest.”
Yes, Reed said, it was in her best interest to testify, but her testimony was truthful whereas her statements to detectives were meant to protect Pedraza.
Reed testified that she, Gaphoor, Morales, Neuberger and Pedraza drove to the home close to midnight and parked in a driveway across the street. Gaphoor, Morales and Neuberger committed the robbery, while she and Pedraza waited in the car.
That is when Reed heard gunfire, she said.
“I lost count after ten (shots),” Reed said.
When Gaphoor, Morales and Neuberger returned to the car they called the robbery a “waste of time” and the five left the crime scene, she testified.
But what was left behind for detectives to find was the body of Gomez, shot through the heart, foot and ankle, along with several injured and scared construction workers and a house riddled with bullet holes and spent ammo, detectives testified.
Medical examiner Robert Phalzgraf testified that an autopsy revealed the shot through Gomez’s heart, which traveled through his diaphragm and liver before exiting from his lower back, killed him.
“It’s my opinion that (Gomez) died of a gunshot wound to the chest with a perforation to the heart,” he said.
Morales was convicted of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted second-degree murder and aggravated battery in February. The state dropped an attempted home invasion robbery charge against him.
Morales also is scheduled to be sentenced Monday.
Neuberger was acquitted of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted second-degree murder and aggravated battery in a February jury trial.
Pedraza was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Gaphoor’s trial resumes today at 9:30 a.m.