LEE COUNTY, Fla.- Testimony continues today in the murder trial of Luis Gonzalez, the man accused of killing Tia Poklemba back in 2008, after running her over with his car in San Carlos Park.
Investigators say Gonzalez fled the country after the murder. He was on the run for four years, before being captured in Mexico.
Today, the court watched a surveillance video from the Tiki Bar, taken the night that Poklemba was killed. The bartender who was on duty that evening, Amanda Peterson, recalled serving Poklemba. Peterson said she was a regular and had several drinks with other bar "regulars" before sitting down with Gonzalez.
After more than 20 minutes of watching video of Poklemba and Gonzalez drinking and talking at the Tiki Bar, the jury watched the two walk out of frame and then, the video ends. Peterson said she recognized the "Hispanic male" in the video as Gonzalez and pointed him out in the courtroom.
After getting a late start, the judge sent the jury to lunch after hearing testimony from only two witnesses. Court resumed at 1:20 p.m. and the prosecution's first witness, Jodi Lauer, was called to the stand. Lauer was familiar with Poklemba through mutual friends, and saw her at the Tiki Bar the night she died. Lauer also identified Gonzalez as a man she remembers seeing with Poklemba on the night she died. Lauer was then questioned by the defense.
Bonnie Rangel, the former girlfriend of Gonzalez, was called to the stand. Rangel was six months pregnant at the time. Rangel testified that on August 7, she had a craving for McDonald's and sent Gonzalez to get her food. Rangel said Gonzalez never told her he was going to the bar or anywhere else in the interim. While it should have been a five-minute drive to the restaurant, Rangel became worried when he did not return after more than 40 minutes. She testified that she drove through San Carlos Park looking for him.
Rangel said that after questioning Gonzalez about taking nearly an hour to get her food, he allegedly told her that he hit somebody.
Prosecutor Dan Feinberg showed the court a surveillance video of Rangel as she pulled into the McDonald's, where she said she was looking for Gonzalez after she asked him to get her food. In the video, the court can see her car pull into the McDonald's parking lot, and minutes later, the video shows Gonzalez pull in next to her. The timing of this is significant as the prosecution tries to piece together a timeline of Gonzalez being unaccounted for, and the time of Poklemba's death.
Rangel said that Gonzalez finally told her he went to the Tiki Bar and was approached by a woman, who asked him for a ride to a friend's house. Rangel said he told her he was driving her down US 41 and realized it was a mistake to give her a ride. Gonzalez said he then turned onto Park Road. Rangel said he told her he didn't remember anything after that.
Rangel said she took Gonzalez to Tampa to a relative's home and lied to investigators about his whereabouts. Rangel claimed Gonzalez admitted to burying Poklemba's purse in the backyard of his duplex, before fleeing Lee County.
If convicted, Gonzalez faces up to 30 years in prison.