(WALL STREET JOURNAL) — By Dan Frosch
SOUTHLAKE, Texas—The gunman walked toward Juan Jesús Guerrero Chapa, who sat in his Range Rover parked at a tony suburban Dallas shopping center.
Mr. Guerrero Chapa had just finished shopping for shoes with his wife, but moments later the 43-year-old Mexican lawyer was dead, struck by multiple shots from a 9-millimeter pistol. The gunman and an accomplice drove away, the brief early evening encounter caught on a surveillance camera.
The 2013 slaying stunned this upscale North Texas city of 29,000, which hadn’t seen a murder since 1999. But that wasn’t all: The man killed was allegedly a prominent member of Mexico’s Gulf Cartel drug trafficking organization, according to U.S. federal officials. His assassination brought that country’s drug war to the doorstep of the serene American neighborhood where the Guerrero Chapas lived.
This week, two of three men prosecutors say are responsible for Mr. Guerrero Chapa’s death will stand trial in Fort Worth, in a case expected to offer a rare glimpse into the nexus of Mexican cartels operating in the U.S.
Jesús Gerardo Ledezma-Cepeda, 59, and his cousin, José Luis Cepeda-Cortés, 60, face charges of conspiracy to commit murder for hire and interstate stalking—which carry up to life in prison. Both men have pleaded not guilty.
Mr. Ledezma-Cepeda’s son, Jesús Gerardo Ledezma-Campano, 32, who faces the same charges in the killing, recently pleaded guilty and is expected to testify for the prosecution, according to a person familiar with the case.
All three men are Mexican citizens; Mr. Cepeda-Cortés was legally in the U.S. on a green card.
According to federal officials, Mr. Guerrero Chapa was the lawyer for Gulf Cartel chief Osiel Cárdenas-Guillén—now imprisoned at the U.S.’s so-called Supermax facility in Florence, Colo.,—and played an important role in the organization.