Man sentenced to life for murder at Stafford store

Jason Lara

Cristhian Cardozo, a father of two, was murdered Dec. 10, 2014, at the Stafford Walmart while trying to defend his family from attackers.

A Fort Bend County jury sentenced the shooter, Jason Lara, to life in prison on May 5 after convicting him of Cardozo’s murder. Cardozo, age 35, was shot in the face and chest while protecting his family and fending off attackers in the Walmart parking lot. Cardozo’s wife, his 9-year-old daughter, and his 14-year-old son were only feet away when Cardozo was gunned down by Lara. The shooting happened just 15 days before Christmas and two days before Cardozo’s daughter’s birthday.

The incident started inside the store around 7 p.m. while the Cardozo family was shopping and Cristhian Cardozo was waiting in his vehicle in the store parking lot. Two unknown adult males approached Cardozo’s wife and children inside the store. Cardozo’s 14-year-old son became nervous when the men began staring at his mother, and an argument between the two men and the family ensued.

The Cardozo family tried to distance themselves from the men by going to the self-check-out counter. Prior to leaving the store, the family called Cardozo, who was still waiting in the parking lot, to help escort them safely to their car. Three individuals, including the two men from inside the store, approached the family and attempted to attack Cardozo’s 14-year-old son. Cardozo’s life was taken as he tried to draw away the attackers from his family.

According to witnesses, a fistfight began and Cardozo was knocked to the ground. In an extreme act of cowardice, Lara pointed a revolver at Cardozo while he was lying on the ground and fired four shots. One bullet struck a Walmart glass window and three bullets struck Cardozo’s body.

Stafford police detectives Preston Ousley and L. Garcia discovered that several witnesses saw the murder take place and one witness observed the license plate number on the fleeing suspect vehicle. During the course of the investigation, Stafford police were able to speak with witnesses, obtain Walmart surveillance videos, and review evidence collected from the scene, which helped identify the shooter as 18-year-old Jason Lara. The other two men involved in the fight with Cardozo’s family both told police that Lara admitted shooting the victim. One of the men stated that Lara even told him that the bullet “was really meant for the kid.”

During the punishment portion of the trial, prosecutor Lesleigh Morton called gang experts to explain to the jury that Lara was a member of the violent criminal street gang “Southwest Cholos.” Although Lara is affiliated with the “Southwest Cholos,” the murder did not appear related to any gang business.

The jury found Lara guilty and sentenced him to life in prison for the murder of Cardozo. Trial prosecutors Chris DeLozier and Morton argued that the cold-blooded murder of Cardozo in front of his family was deserving of a life sentence. The prosecution reminded the jury that Lara had shown no mercy to the victim and that anything the jury gave the defendant would be more merciful than what he did to Mr. Cardozo.

DeLozier stated that the family had lost just about everything they had … their loved one, their security, and even the house they lived in. DeLozier reminded the jury that the family still does not know how anyone could murder their loved one for no reason, and he suggested that the family will rest a little easier knowing that the shooter would be paying for what he did.

“The jury sent a clear message to this criminal defendant and to any criminal that murders innocent people … You will pay a heavy price for the life you take,” said DeLozier.

Murder is a first-degree felony punishable by five to 99 years or life in prison and an optional fine not to exceed $10,000.

Assistant district attorneys DeLozier and Morton prosecuted the case. Attorney Frumencio Reyes represented the defendant. Judge Chad Bridges presided over the case.

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