There was sufficient evidence to convict John Rosas Suarez of taking part in a May 2018 home invasion during which a shotgun was pointed at two young children and their father was beaten in the head because he owed Suarez money for drugs, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled Monday.
Suarez, now 24, was found guilty by a Pinal County jury of six felonies related to the early morning incident at an Arizona City home when three masked men demanded the father make good on a $2,000 drug debt. A judge later imposed a 56-year prison sentence, making Suarez ineligible for release until August 2073.
On appeal, Suarez argued that revelations by two witnesses that they were told by the father to lie about what happened in the house was grounds for overturning his convictions. He also pointed to a lack of physical evidence placing Suarez, who lived in Phoenix, inside the Arizona City house as an example of reasonable doubt.
However, in a 3-0 decision authored by Vice Chief Judge Christopher Staring, the appellate court ruled there was “sufficiency of the evidence” to support the four aggravated assault convictions as well as convictions for first degree burglary and armed robbery.
Among that evidence was a statement one of the children made to police right after the event that Suarez was the man who pointed a gun at her and a sibling. The girl confirmed her identification when called to testify trial, describing the man with the gun as “Johnny,” a longtime friend of the father, and noted his curly hair, skin color, voice, and “long nose.”
Other evidence the court of appeals found supported Suarez’s convictions included text messages he sent to the father about the drug debt in the days before the home invasion. And there was a message Suarez to others in which he shared the father’s home address.
A Pinal County sheriff’s deputy also testified at trial that a forensic exam of Suarez’s cell phone placed it near Suarez’s home just minutes before the home invasion happened.
“Here, a reasonable person could find sufficient evidence to warrant a conviction,” Staring wrote in the decision. “Although Suarez maintains he is not asking us to reweigh the evidence, his arguments suggest otherwise.”
The appellate decision affirming Suarez’s convictions and sentences also noted the trial court did not err in denying Suarez’s motion for judgment of acquittal prior to the jury’s deliberations.
At the time of the May 2018 home invasion, Suarez was on probation for a 2016 drug case in Pinal County. He was also pending trial in a 2017 Maricopa County drug case.
Suarez was revoked from probation and sentenced to a short term in prison for the 2016 case. He was later convicted in the Maricopa County and sentenced to 2.5-years in prison.