Navarro convicted of capital murder, sentenced to life in prison without parole

STEVE NASH steve.nash@brownwoodbulletin.com
Sheriff's deputies including Billy Arp (left) and Capt. Tony Aaron (right) escort Matthew Navarro out of the courthouse Monday afternoon after a 35th District Court jury convicted Navarro, 24, of capital murder. District Judge Steve Ellis sentenced Navarro to life in prison with no possibility of parole. Ellis said the sentence is mandated by law when the state waives the death penalty. Navarro was one of four young men convicted in the Dec. 11, 2009 shooting death of Ronald Philen in Brownwood.

Matthew Navarro was convicted Monday of capital murder in the December 2009 shooting death of Ronald Philen in Brownwood and sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole.

A 35th District Court jury deliberated for about 75 minutes before returning the guilty verdict, and District Judge Steve Ellis said state law mandates the life-without-parole sentence in a capital murder conviction in which the state waives the death penalty.

Navarro, 24, of Brownwood, showed no reaction throughout the two-week trial, including Monday afternoon when Ellis announced the guilty verdict and sentence.

Navarro was the fourth of four co-defendants who have been sentenced in the murder, which, according state's witnesses, occurred when the four attempted to rob Philen of a large stash of marijuana they believed was in his home.

Pedro Rocha was convicted of capital murder last year and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. 

Efrain Castillo and Alex Gil took plea deals last year in which they pleaded guilty to murder, rather than capital murder, in exchange for 40-year prison sentences with parole as a possibility.

Castillo and Gil testified in the trials of Rocha and Navarro, saying the four had gone to the home where Ronald Philen lived with his brother, Randall, intending to rob Ronald Philen of the marijuana.

Philen was shot five times in his bedroom, and after the four fled, Navarro said he was sorry and that he had to shoot Philen because Philen was moving around, according to testimony.

Randall Philen was initially charged in the murder sentenced to life in prison. Philen was freed from prison after police and prosecutors began receiving information implicating Navarro and his three co-defendants.

Navarro's attorney, Evan Pierce-Jones, told jurors in his closing argument Monday that Navarro was never at the crime scene when Philen was shot to death.

Jones presented a scenario in which Gil, Castillo and  Rocha went to Philen brothers' home intending to rob Philen of the Marijuana, said it was Gil and Castillo who shot Philen with their handguns.

First Assistant District Attorney Sam Moss argued that all four of the young men had gone to the Philen brothers' home after they "got greedy" and came up with a plan to take the marijuana at gunpoint.

Recounting state's testimony, Moss said Ronald Philen had made a decision to stash marijuana for a drug dealer after losing his job with the Brownwood school district, and needed money. "He made a really bad decision and he paid for it with his life," Moss told jurors.

" … Ronald Philen didn't deserve to die. I don't care what he did."