Originally created 09/17/99

Suspect in slayings testifies



On trial for his life, Narciso Pineda told jurors Thursday that he had no choice but to shoot two men last Thanksgiving in order to save both his son's and his own life.

Mr. Pineda and his son, Narciso Pineda Jr., took the stand Thursday, the fourth day of testimony in the trial of Mr. Pineda, who is charged with shooting and killing Mario Molina and Leonel Vazquez, both 42, and Prisca Rosales Vazquez, 41, and her unborn child Nov. 26 outside their trailer at Mobile City Rentals in Grovetown.

Mr. Pineda maintains that he shot the men in self-defense and that the death of Mrs. Vazquez was accidental. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

"All I was trying to do was save myself and save my son," Mr. Pineda told the jury of nine men and three women.

Mr. Pineda, who was born in Mexico and saw his own father gunned down next to him as they walked to work in the fields, told jurors that he came to America several years ago, working odd jobs as a migrant farmer and in factories on the West Coast.

In 1994, he moved to Georgia with five of his children and met the Vazquez family.

"We played ball every weekend," Mr. Pineda said. "Everyone would get together at the volleyball court. I never had any problems with any of them."

Mr. Pineda said that when he went to the Vazquez home Nov. 26 to invite them to his house for Thanksgiving dinner, an argument began between him and Mr. Vazquez.

"I told Leonel that we were leaving because it was getting late ... He said, `You aren't going anywhere"' said Mr. Pineda. "He had a pistol in his hand and another in his belt. He said, `Do you want to die with me?' And I said no, I have a lot of family and so do you."

Mr. Pineda said Mr. Vazquez then pulled his pistol and shot his son in the back of the leg as they walked toward their van to leave.

"So then I pulled my gun and I remembered it wasn't loaded, so I put in my magazine and started firing," Mr. Pineda said. "I kept shooting because he wouldn't fall so I kept firing. I wasn't sure if I had hit him or not. It happened so fast. I was lying on the ground and Mario was going to hit me with a block so I fired at him."

When asked why he had his 9 mm with him when he went to the trailer park that night, Mr. Pineda said he had taken it to the firing range earlier that day but the range was closed.

Mr. Pineda had his other son, Alonzo, drive him to North Carolina after the shootings, where he surrendered to police the next day and learned the Vazquezes and Mr. Molina were dead, he said.

"I felt real bad, actually for all of them, but more for the lady because I found out she was pregnant," said Mr. Pineda. "I never saw the lady. It was not my intention to hurt or to kill her. I felt bad for all of them, but I felt worse for the lady."

Closing arguments in the trial will begin early this morning in Columbia County Superior Court.

Reach Scotty Fletcher at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 111, or ccchron@augustachronicle.com.