Year-long Investigation Leads to Arrest in DHS Murder

Year-long Investigation Leads to Arrest in DHS Murder


Desert Hot Springs, CA

A Desert Hot Springs man currently in state prison has been charged with the April 2015 murder of his ex-girlfriend, Desert Hot Springs police said today.

Jesus Garza Jr., 23, is accused of shooting Maria Duarte, who was found with a gunshot to the chest and later died at a hospital on April 12, 2015.

Garza is incarcerated at Norco State Prison, where he is serving a four- year sentence for second-degree robbery. He was charged last week with murder and a sentence-enhancing allegation of discharging a firearm, causing great bodily injury or death.

Desert Hot Springs police officers found Duarte lying face down on the sidewalk at 2:53 a.m. near the area of Palm Drive and Pierson Boulevard.

She was taken to Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs for treatment of a gunshot wound, but died at the hospital.

An investigation conducted over the following year revealed multiple witnesses who identified Garza as the shooter.

One witness who was standing about two blocks from the shooting on April 12 said he heard the gunshot and saw Garza walking away from the area of Palm Drive and Pierson Boulevard, according to a declaration in support of an arrest warrant prepared by Detective Troy Castillo.

Investigators also spoke with Garza’s brother, who told police that on the day of the shooting, Garza left the apartment they shared at midnight and returned about an hour later, acting “suspicious” and “nervous,” and told his brother that he “did something stupid.”

Other witnesses told police that Garza admitted killing Duarte and was paid $200 to do so by another of his ex-girlfriends, Castillo wrote.

Garza also allegedly admitted to killing Duarte to several inmates he shared time with in prison, one of whom told investigators that Garza said he “loved Duarte and that he killed her over being with someone else,” according to the declaration.

Garza pleaded not guilty to the murder charge during a June 15 arraignment and will return to the Larson Justice Center on Thursday for a felony settlement conference.