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August 3, 2013

Methuen woman convicted in 'Minivan Murder'

LAWRENCE — A Lawrence Superior Court jury yesterday convicted a Methuen woman of first degree murder in the 2009 shooting death of Robert Gonzalez.

Judge Mary Ames sentenced Cauris Gonzalez, 23, of 9 Tower St., to life without the possibility of parole. She was the driver of the get-away car in the so-called “Minivan Murder” case. Essex Assistant District Attorney Jean Curran argued that Cauris Gonzalez – no relation to the victim – shared the intention to kill the victim with the shooters.

Robert Gonzalez, 20, was killed after a group gathered outside a Broadway restaurant early on Jan. 10, 2009. An argument erupted and Gonzalez punched Joel Javier, causing him to lose a front tooth, police said.

Some 16 hours later, police were called to a pizza shop near Hampton and Haverhill streets, where they found Gonzalez in the minivan, dying of two gunshot wounds to his back.

Gonzalez was initially driving a minivan found at 486 Haverhill St. on Jan. 10, 2009. But police said he dove into the passenger’s seat that evening, desperately trying to avoid two “execution style” gunmen who opened fire on the vehicle that night. Gonzalez was unable to shield himself from the fatal spray of bullets and was later pronounced dead at Lawrence General Hospital.

Police said Gonzalez’s murder was believed to be revenge exacted over the loss of Javier’s tooth. Javier, 27, of Lawrence, was one of six people charged in connection with the murder.

Prosecutor Curran praised the work of Massachusetts State Police Trooper Josh Ulrich, and Lawrence police Detective Jay Haggerty following the conviction of Cauris Gonzalez. She is one of several to go on trial this summer. Yoshio Stackerman, 28, was found guilty of murder in the second degree on July 12 and was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Javier’s trial ended in a mistrial. He will stand trial again on Aug. 20. In May, a jury acquitted Thomas Castro, 30, of Lawrence.

Also facing first-degree murder charges in Gonzalez’s death is Francis Wyatt, 30, of 12 Woodland Ct., Lawrence. Maribel Villafane, 26, of 114 Ames St., Lawrence, was also charged with being an accessory after the fact.

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