GALVESTON — A 4-year-old boy was “5 feet away” when his mother’s boyfriend was shot to death at a Galveston home last month, a detective investigating the killing testified at a bond hearing Wednesday.
The boy’s mother, Claudia Esquivel, 22, a recent graduate of Galveston College’s Law Enforcement Academy, appeared Wednesday in a courtroom packed with her family and relatives of the man she is accused of shooting, Christopher Chapa, 27.
Esquivel was charged with murder in connection with Chapa’s death and booked on a $150,000 bond. Judge Bret Griffin agreed to lower Esquivel’s bond to $40,000 after a hearing that featured testimony from Esquivel, her mother and the Galveston police detective investigating the case.
If she is released on bond, Esquivel will be required to wear an ankle monitor, will have a curfew and will be prohibited from interacting with the Chapa family.
Esquivel was arrested June 16 after officers, responding to a 911 call from Esquivel’s mother reporting a violent domestic disturbance, found Chapa’s body at a home in the 1600 block of Avenue M 1/2.
Irene Hernandez, Esquivel’s mother, testified that her family owned the house, as well as a home on Pine Street, where police detained Esquivel within an hour of the 911 call.
Galveston police detective Michelle Sollenberger, who is investigating the killing, said officers arrived at the home on Avenue M 1/2 at about 4 a.m. and found blood on the front door.
Police found Chapa, who had a single gunshot wound behind his left ear, dying inside the house, Sollenberger said.
Officers asked the police dispatcher to call back Esquivel’s mother, who told police Esquivel was at her house on Pine Street.
Esquivel gave two statements to police, Sollenberger said.
Esquivel told police she and Chapa, who she had been dating on-and-off for about a year, had been in an argument before the shooting, Sollenberger said.
Esquivel told police she asked Chapa to leave the house, Sollenberger said. In one statement, Esquivel indicated to police that Chapa had been packing his belongings and preparing to leave, but in another statement, she said she was the one moving her boyfriend’s belongings.
Esquivel told Sollenberger the argument escalated, and that she went to get a handgun the couple kept in the house, the officer testified. Esquivel told police she wanted to scare Chapa and removed the magazine from the handgun, according to testimony.
A struggle ensued, Esquivel told Sollenberger, and the gun fired once, the police detective testified.
Sollenberger said it appeared to her there was a history of mutual physical violence in the relationship between Chapa and Esquivel. She also said Esquivel’s mother called 911 that night to report that Chapa was “pushing and fighting” with her daugther.
Esquivel’s 4-year-old son from a previous relationship spoke with investigators at a children’s advocacy center, according to testimony. He told police he heard yelling and a “lot of bad words” exchanged before he saw “mommy getting a gun,” Sollenberger said.
Esquivel, a Ball High graduate who worked as a server at Landry’s Restaurant, testified that her uncle works at the Galveston Police Department and was a former bailiff for the county.
Esquivel said she grew up on the island, where most of her relatives continue to live.
“All my family’s here,” she said. “My son’s here. I’m not going to leave him.”
Esquivel said she had completed two semesters at Galveston College’s Law Enforcement Academy, graduating in May, but had twice failed the state’s peace officer certification test.
Students in the academy study Texas traffic laws, criminal investigation and police vehicle operation. Students in the 618-hour course also receive firearms training, according to the college’s website.
Esquivel said she had one more chance to pass the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education test to become a certified peace officer.
She said she had hoped to work for the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office after getting her peace officer certification.