JonCasey Rowell took the witness stand Friday at his own murder trial and testified that he shot Monica Loera in self-defense after she threatened him with a baseball bat over a theft accusation.
As the defense’s first witness, Rowell testified for more than two hours about the early morning hours of Jan. 22, 2016 when he drove from his temporary home in Georgetown to North Austin to meet with Loera. The two had negotiated a sexual transaction through backpage.com in which Loera would be paid $100.
Loera, 43, was a transgender woman who was well known in the local LGBT community.
Rowell’s defense team admitted at the start of trial on Tuesday that he shot Loera, but says that he did so in self-defense.
Rowell said Loera performed oral sex on him in her bedroom for a minute or two before insisting that he go to the store to get a condom. Rowell said he got dressed and left, but when he got to his truck, he realized he had left his vest in Loera’s room. The vest contained his wallet and keys, he said.
Rowell then testified that he knocked at the door and Loera answered with his vest. He returned to his truck, but could not find his wallet inside of the vest.
Rowell said he went to the door once more, this time bringing a gun from his truck because he felt unsafe. He said after several knocks Loera answered the door and told him if he did not leave she would beat him and his truck with a baseball bat. According to Rowell, Loera then opened the door aggressively and lunged at him. He said he pulled out his gun and fired from two or three feet away and left in his truck. He said he was unaware he had hit Loera until reading a news story about her death the following day.
Rowell testified that he later found the wallet in an inside vest pocket that he did not know existed.
The trial is in recess for lunch until 2 p.m. The defense plans to call four more witnesses.
Two days after the shooting, Rowell, who was married with a newborn at the time, admitted that he was again on backpage.com searching for transgender prostitutes. He also searched the Internet for how to get away with murder, evidence showed.
Rowell, 30, said he was living temporarily in Georgetown to work on a pipeline while his family was back home in Childress.