Witness in murder trial: ‘If I didn't do anything, I would have ended up just like that guy'

Dennis Austin says he feared for his life

By Stephanie Serna - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - A witness who claims he saw a murder victim being suffocated took the stand Wednesday in the murder trial of Gabriel Moreno.

Moreno is on trial for allegedly killing Jose Luis Menchaca in 2014.

Dennis Austin told the jury that he and his fiancé, Priscilla Gallegos, were roommates with Gallegos' cousin, Moreno.

Austin said when Moreno's cousin, Daniel Lopez, called Gallegos to come over on Sept. 30, 2014, he didn't know what to expect.

Austin said he drove his fiancé to a house in the 400 block of Hillwood Drive and was shocked by what he saw once they entered the bedroom of the home.

"The victim was on the floor, taped up by his hands, his ankles," Gallegos said. "He had tape around his mouth. The couch had blood on it. The walls had blood on it and Daniel was pretty much saying, ‘I got him. I got him. I told you I was going to get him.’”

Austin testified that Candy Dominguez, who was Lopez's girlfriend, was sitting on the bed with a sadistic smile on her face.

Lopez, Dominguez and Moreno are all accused of the gruesome murder of Jose Luis Menchaca, who was dismembered and burned in a barbecue pit.

Austin said Lopez asked him and Moreno to move Menchaca, who was still alive at that point, to the back garage. Out of fear, Austin said he complied.

"Because of what happened there, because of what I saw," Menchaca said. "All I know is if I didn't do anything, they pretty much said I would have ended up just like that guy."

Austin said after he and Moreno moved the victim with a white blanket, Lopez tried to suffocate the victim while Moreno held him down.

"Daniel says, ‘You better pray to God because now. I'm your god, and I decide if you're going to live or die,’” Austin told to the jury. "And before he started suffocating him, when the victim's tape was taken off his mouth, the victim tells him, ‘I'm sorry for what I did. Please don't do this. I won't tell anyone if you don't do this.’ And then Daniel said, ‘Nope. You're going to die.’"

The trial resumes Thursday.

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