LAWRENCE — A fellow inmate said drug dealer Johan Saint Clair told him he shot two people to death at the La Guira nightclub as revenge for a large cocaine ripoff by home-invading or torturing thieves known as “joloperos.”
“I talked to him about my case. He talked to me about his case ... He told me how he did the shooting, more or less,” said Luis Alberto Gonzalez, 28, who is now in federal custody on a heroin-trafficking charge.
In 2011, Gonzalez was in Middleton Jail for two months with Saint Clair, 32, before being transferred to a federal prison. Saint Clair was held without bail at Middleton following his arrest after the Sept. 6, 2010 double murder.
At the request of prosecutor James Gubitose, Gonzalez demonstrated for jurors how Saint Clair allegedly motioned with his right hand and fingers, re-enacting how he fatally fired a semi-automatic handgun into the packed nightclub at midnight that night.
Gonzalez said Saint Clair told him he was exacting revenge against Juan Esteban Suazo-Soto — a ‘jolopero’ who previously robbed him. Suazo-Soto and Amarilis Roldan, a mother of two young children, were both killed.
Gonzalez was promised leniency in his federal sentence if he truthfully testifies at Saint Clair’s trial.
Saint Clair, of Lawrence, is accused of the first degree murder of Roldan, 24, of Dorchester, and Suazo-Soto, 34, of Hyde Park. Gubitose has described the killings as premeditated and deliberate.
Also, Saint Clair is charged with wounding Valerie Verdejo and Jose Luis Medrano Baez and illegally carrying the semi-automatic handgun.
Wearing beige prison scrubs and white laceless sneakers, Gonzalez in his testimony backed up the prosecution’s assertion that Saint Clair sprayed the club with bullets as retribution for an earlier cocaine robbery. “He said they took a kilo from him. They tied up the girl and took the kilo,” Gonzalez said.
Saint Clair, he said, told him that Roldan was Suazi-Soto’s girlfriend and also a jolopero. However, there was no previous testimony or suggestion that Roldan and Suazo-Soto knew one another. Roldan, described as quiet and shy, went to the club reluctantly that night with her sister, cousin and a friend only to lose her life, her sister Aida Roldan testified last week.
Gonzalez said he knew Saint Clair from Lawrence and also from a town in the Dominican Republic, the Caribbean country they both lived in as boys before coming to the United States. Gonzalez said he came to Lawrence in 1996.
At Middleton Jail, the two were housed in the same unit but had separate rooms. They were friendly, “sharing” their stories with one another. “He offered me food the first night I was there,” Gonzalez said.
He said Saint Clair said Suazo-Soto “was looking for him to kill him.”
Gonzalez said Saint Clair told him after the shootings, he threw the semi-automatic handgun out of the getaway car. However, under questioning by defense attorney Russell Sobelman, Gonzalez could not immediately remember where Saint Clair allegedly said he threw the gun.
Sobelman showed him a transcript showing he previously said Saint Clair tossed the gun at Warren and Haverhill streets. “Is your memory now refreshed?” Sobelman asked. “Yes,” Gonzalez replied.
At Sobelman’s questioning, Gonzalez acknowledged he was arrested for trafficking 2,234 grams of heroin - resulting in the federal narcotics charges. Sobelman asked the inmate how much he values freedom.
“A lot,” Gonzalez said.
Also testifying yesterday was Richard Nunez, who owned the La Guira nightclub for the past 10 years. The club was shut down in August after the state’s Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission revoked its liquor license.
Nunez testified he was in the club when the shooting occurred and heard “many” shots. The club was full and people immediately started running out the doors when the gunfire broke out.
“At the beginning, I couldn’t believe what was going on,” he said.
Immediately after the shooting, he and police officer PJ Lopez viewed video surveillance footage that captured the shooting on a 27-inch TV screen in his office. State police were later shown the video. However, the footage was destroyed, and could not be introduced at trial due to a technical fluke.
Recalling what he saw on the surveillance video, Nunez said the shooter had a gun in his hand, was wearing a white shirt and dark-framed glasses with clear lenses.
Former girlfriend Aurelia Vicente, 26, also testified Saint Clair often wore dark rimmed glasses as a fashion accessory and Aldo shoes with square toes when he went out. Under cross examination, however, Vicente said Aldo was “world wide” shoe manufacturer with many stores.
Vicente and Saint Clair have a 4 1/2-year-old daughter together.
The double murder trial resumes this morning in Lawrence Superior Court and is expected to last through the week.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.