Mexico native sentenced for murder in Jefferson County

Mexico native sentenced for murder in Jefferson County

A 24-year-old Mexico native was sentenced to prison in Jefferson County Feb. 29 for the murder of 25-year-old Port Arthur resident Denzel Washington. Jose Julio Esquivel was sentenced to 40 years for Washington’s murder, 20 years for a separate aggravated assault and 20 years for burglary of a habitation to run concurrently.

On July 15, 2015, investigators determined that Esquivel burglarized a home on Rosedale Drive in Port Arthur and stole a firearm, the weapon that was later traced to the aggravated assault of 37-year-old Jafar A. Hill and to Washington’s murder. The owner of the firearm told investigators it was stolen while he was out of town.

After the burglary, Esquivel contacted Hill in order to sell or trade the stolen gun. The two met, and Hill told Esquivel that he would try to find a buyer for the weapon. When they met a second time, an argument ensued over the sale of the gun, resulting in Esquivel shooting Hill in the face. The bullet went through Hill's upper lip, shattering his teeth, piercing his tongue, and exiting the left side of his neck. Hill sped away as Esquivel fired four more shots.

Hospital staff contacted Port Arthur police regarding a gunshot victim at the ER, and Hill was able to identify Esquivel as the assailant in the shooting.

Officers went after gunman Esquivel and apprehended him a short time later. However, Esquivel was able to slip out of a handcuff while in the back of a patrol car and escape custody – but not for long. A few hours after his escape, Esquivel was re-arrested and back in custody.

As a team of officers searched diligently for the escaped Esquivel, some of their fellow PAPD officers were responding to another shooting, a fatal one. According to initial reports, officers were dispatched to the intersection of 15th Street and Sixth Avenue in Port Arthur regarding an unresponsive male inside a vehicle at about 6:30 a.m. When they arrived, they discovered Washington deceased inside a parked vehicle and displaying apparent head trauma. An autopsy revealed he was shot in the head.

PAPD detectives and officers interviewed friends, family and acquaintances of Washington trying to piece together what happened to him and identify a homicide suspect. Once they got Esquivel back into custody, they soon realized they had their suspect in both shootings. According to PAPD, Esquivel shocked them by confessing to Washington’s murder.

Investigators learned that after Esquivel shot Hill, Washington picked up Esquivel a few blocks away from the assault, and the two rode around for a couple of hours. Washington was later found dead inside his car. Esquivel confessed to detectives that he shot Washington twice in the head and stole money and drugs before fleeing. Investigators found bullet casings inside the car with Washington and matched them to the weapon that was used in both shootings. Police caught up with Esquivel a short time afterward. After confessing, he also led officers to the place he had stowed the weapon.

Though Esquivel was able to elude police after his initial capture, justice finally caught up with him in Judge John Stevens' Criminal District Court on Monday, Feb. 1, when he pleaded guilty to murder and other charges, prior to his sentencing Feb. 29.

After sentencing, Prosecutor Mike Laird stated, “These were senseless shootings which were the result of the selfish acts of Esquivel who was only looking to feed his habit for drugs."

The case was a joint investigation between the Port Arthur Police Department, and investigators with the Jefferson County Criminal District Attorney’s Office.