A Bexar County jury on Wednesday acquitted Ezekiel Gilbert of murder in the death of a 23-year-old Craigslist escort.
Outside the courtroom, Gilbert thanked God, the Barrera family and the jury for being able to “see what wasn’t the truth” and for the “second chance.”
Had he been convicted, he could have faced up to life in prison for the slaying of Lenora Ivie Frago who died about seven months after she was shot in the neck and paralyzed on Christmas Eve 2009. Gilbert admitted shooting Frago.
“I sincerely regret the loss of the life of Ms. Frago,” Gilbert said Wednesday. “I’ve been in a mental prison the past four years of my life. I have nightmares. If I see guns on TV where people are getting killed, I change the channel.”
The verdict came after almost 11 hours of deliberations that stretched over two days. The trial began May 17 but had a long hiatus after a juror unexpectedly had to leave town for a funeral.
During closing arguments Tuesday, Gilbert’s defense team conceded the shooting did occur but said the intent wasn’t to kill. Gilbert’s actions were justified, they argued, because he was trying to retrieve stolen property: the $150 he paid Frago. It became theft when she refused to have sex with him or give the money back, they said.
Gilbert testified earlier Tuesday that he had found Frago’s escort ad on Craigslist and believed sex was included in her $150 fee. But instead, Frago walked around his apartment and after about 20 minutes left, saying she had to give the money to her driver, he said.
That driver, the defense contended, was Frago’s pimp and her partner in the theft scheme.
The Texas law that allows people to use deadly force to recover property during a nighttime theft was put in place for “law-abiding” citizens, prosecutors Matt Lovell and Jessica Schulze countered. It’s not intended for someone trying to force another person into an illegal act such as prostitution, they argued.