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A judge set bond at $300,000 for John Mark Altizer, who faces first-degree murder charges in the death of Gabriel Gomez, 31.
John Mark Altizer
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
A few hours before her husband allegedly shot and killed her son, Delia Altizer asked John Mark Altizer when he would return from his weeklong trip as a truck driver.
She had allowed her son, 31-year-old Gabriel Felix Gomez, to stay in their house at the end of Highwood Road Northwest while her husband, Gomez’s stepfather, was on the road. Her husband had forbidden Gomez from visiting the house, and her question was a way of determining how long Gomez could stay as she tried to walk the tightrope of supporting her son and pleasing her husband.
Prosecutors believe his answer was the beginning of a premeditated murder. At a bond hearing Tuesday in Roanoke Circuit Court, they asked a judge to keep Altizer, 55, imprisoned as he awaits trial on the first-degree murder charge stemming from Gomez’s death.
Delia Altizer contacted The Roanoke Times to talk about the case.
“He said, ‘I might be home Saturday,’ ” Delia Altizer told a reporter Monday. “That was not so. That was deliberate, because he wanted to catch Gabriel.”
Roanoke Circuit Court Judge William Broadhurst set Mark Altizer’s bond at $300,000.
According to testimony and a search warrant filed in the court, Mark Altizer admitted to shooting Gomez shortly after midnight on April 20 at the Altizer home, and cooperated with investigators. His defense attorney, Deborah Caldwell-Bono, called the shooting a case of self-defense, saying Altizer had fired at someone who lunged at him before realizing it was his stepson.
Delia and Mark Altizer married when Gomez was about 7 years old. Both Delia Altizer and the defense acknowledged that they had a strained relationship.
So when Mark Altizer’s headlights illuminated the driveway on Friday evening, April 19, a day earlier than expected, Gomez scampered out the back of the house and went to the 7-Eleven on Williamson Road, Delia Altizer said. But he left behind his cellphone and some clothing.
When Mark Altizer found the items, he “went ballistic,” Delia Altizer said. Later that evening, she recorded an argument with her husband. It was a practice she had begun as arguments over Gomez became “less and less respectful,” she said.
Though Broadhurst denied a request to play the recording during Tuesday’s hearing, prosecutor Courtney Hamblin read an excerpt in which Mark Altizer told his wife he would “break Gabriel’s face, snap his neck, watch him hit the ground and piss on him.”
Hamblin asked the judge to deny Altizer bond on the possibility that he could be a threat to his wife or other family members.
Caldwell-Bono pointed out his role as an ordained minister who worked with prisoners in local jails when he wasn’t on the road. With Altizer having no previous criminal record, she asked for bond to be set at $50,000 and presented friends and family, including his daughter, to vouch for him.
One man, Tony Roush, was in court to offer the equity of his Salem home for Mark Altizer’s bond.
It was unclear how much Roush’s home equity amounted to, but after Broadhurst set bond at $300,000, Caldwell-Bono said Mark Altizer’s family and friends were checking on options for how to make the amount.
Broadhurst also set restrictions that he said were intended to protect members of the community.
He ordered Altizer to be subject to daily pretrial supervision, to have no contact with his wife or with any potential witnesses for the commonwealth, and to stay in Salem except when visiting his attorney or attending court hearings.
On the night Gomez died, prosecutors said, Mark Altizer goaded his stepson to return to the house to retrieve his phone and clothes. Delia Altizer said her husband had been unwilling to have Gomez in the house since he broke in about a year ago. She said her son had also struggled with alcoholism.
Caldwell-Bono said Gomez had attacked his stepfather with a gun in the past in an incident that many people in the family’s circle knew about.
By the time Gomez arrived back at the house, Delia Altizer was in bed. She heard her dog nudge the bells near the door to indicate someone was outside.
“As soon as I heard the doorbell chimes, I heard three gunshots,” she said.
Delia Altizer raced up the stairs and out the door. Outside she saw her husband standing to her left with a gun. Gomez was lying on his stomach, his head turned away from her.
“He lifted his face a little, and I heard him struggling to say, ‘I love you,’ ” Delia Altizer said. “I didn’t see he was wounded, so I think I asked, ‘Who is he saying I love you to?’ When I saw the blood around his shirt, I realized what happened.”
A trial in the case is scheduled for August.
Staff writer Neil Harvey
contributed information to this story.
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