Tyler murder suspect who initially claimed self-defense to plead not guilty

Crime & Public Safety

TYLER, Texas (KETK) – A Tyler man charged with a murder from back in 2019 announced in court Monday morning that he will plead not guilty and proceed to a trial next year.

Humberto Lauro Leal, 40, is accused of stabbing Luis Rene Maruffo-Castaneda back on June 30, 2019, at his home north of the Tyler city limits.

Elizabeth Anderson, an assistant prosecutor for the district attorney’s office, told 241st District Judge Jack Skeen that they had made no plea deal offer on the case.

Skeen set a pre-trial hearing for December 14 to go over various motions filed by both sides. Zach Davis, Leal’s head lawyer, was asked about Leal filing a motion to have him removed as his attorney.

Davis and Leal both confirmed that the filing was a mistake and was simply the wrong form. Leal repeatedly insisted he wanted Davis on the case.

Last year, when a Smith County detective arrived on the murder scene, he found Castaneda dead in the driver seat of his car, covered in blood. He then interviewed Leal, who said he lived there and claimed Castaneda was trying to kill him and he stabbed him in self-defense.

Leal also had a gunshot wound in his lower abdomen. He was then taken to UT Health East Texas for further treatment.

In his initial interview, Leal claimed that he stabbed Castaneda four times and that Casteneda was standing when he shot him.

However, detectives in the arrest warrant said that the autopsy revealed Castaneda was stabbed 22 times in the head, neck, chest, back, and left arm. There was also forensic evidence that showed Casteneda was on his back when he shot Leal, further contradicting his statement.

In a follow-up interview, Leal allegedly confessed to police that he lied about how the fight went down and that it was not unprovoked. They were arguing earlier that day at a different location and had an initial fight six months before the murder.

Leal is charged with murder and is sitting in the Smith County jail on a $500,000 bond. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison.

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