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Testimony continues in Brownwood murder trial

By Betty Nguyen, bnguyen@ktxs.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 12:49:09 PM CST
Updated On: Oct 30 2013 12:48:42 PM CDT
BROWNWOOD, Texas -

Testimony picks back up Wednesday in the Brownwood murder trial of 22-year-old Pedro Rocha Jr.

Rocha is one of four men charged with killing Ronald Philen in 2009.

Prosecutors say the men killed Philen when they broke into his home trying to steal marijuana. Randall Philen, Ronald’s brother, was originally convicted for the murder, but was later acquitted.

On Tuesday, he took the stand as a witness in Rocha’s trial. Also played in court was Randall’s 911 call after the attack – where you could hear his hysterical cry for help.

In the opening statement, Defense Attorney Todd Steele said the evidence does not add up with Philen's story and that Philen staged the murder.

The 911 dispatcher who took Philen's call was briefly questioned, but Philen took to the witness stand for a majority of the day.

Philen said he was close with his brother, even though they often had arguments and physical altercations.

"Usually they were over finance," Philen said. "But Ronnie was definitely my best friend."

Philen said he was aware that his brother kept about 44 pounds of marijuana in his bedroom closet, which was locked with a skeleton key attached on Ronald's key ring to his vehicle. It was also kept in a metal cash box, according to Philen. Philen said he was concerned about the risk with the abundance of marijuana inside the house.

Philen described the night of the incident, saying a crash woke him in the middle of the night and sent him running toward Ronald's room.

"I thought Ronnie suffered from one of his seizures and fell onto the furniture," Philen said. He said when he saw the intruders, he thought they were the police raiding the house for drugs. He realized otherwise when they held the gun to his head and yelled at him to get down on the floor. He believed the weapon was a single-barrel shotgun. Philen complied and begged them not to hurt his brother.

Philen recalled hearing several gunshots. He also heard someone ask, "Where's the 50 pounds? Where's the money?" Philen said he never heard Ronald say anything, but he did hear Ronald gasp. Although it was dark, Philen identified the suspects as young with Hispanic accents.

Philen was cross-examined for several hours. Court adjourned around 5 p.m. Tuesday and was set to resume Wednesday morning.

The four suspects have been indicted for burglarizing the Philen brothers' home and trying to steal marijuana, as well as for shooting Ronald Philen to death. Two of them have pled guilty in exchange for 40 years in prison. The fourth suspect is due in court Jan. 27.