Court of Appeals upholds life conviction for Bogue Chitto man convicted of murder

Published 12:26 pm Wednesday, May 15, 2024

The Mississippi Supreme Court’s Court of Appeals has affirmed the convictions and sentences for a Bogue Chitto man convicted of first-degree murder and possession of a firearm as a felon.

In 2018, Troy Galarza was arrested and charged with the murder of Wesley Watts after Watts was reported missing and last seen on Galarza’s Triple G Goat Farm property.

According to court records, a witness contacted authorities on Dec. 3, 2018, saying that Galarza had told him that “he killed Wesley Watts for stealing from him” and “rolled him up in a rug and put him in the field.” The following day, authorities executed a search warrant on the property and recovered approximately 12 rifles, pistols and knives, as well as several bullet casings and rope. Also discovered was a body “wrapped up in a rug” located “about 200 yards northeast of the residence,” later positively identified as Watts. His death was ruled a homicide caused by a gunshot wound to the back of the torso.

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On June 29, 2021, a Lincoln County grand jury indicted Galarza for first-degree murder and felony possession of a weapon. In December, the indictment was amended to clarify that Galarza would be prosecuted as a habitual offender, specifying simple robbery, battery and aggravated battery convictions from Louisiana in 1989, as well as two manslaughter convictions from Mississippi in 2006.

Galarza was tried in early October 2022, and a jury convicted him on both counts on Oct. 7. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without eligibility for parole for the murder, and to 10 years to be served consecutively for the weapon possession. Galarza was also ordered to pay a $15,000 fine.

On Oct. 11, Galarza filed a motion for a new trial alleging — among other things — that the use of his manslaughter convictions from 2006 involved improper character evidence and was erroneous. That motion was denied Oct. 12. That same day, Galarza appealed alleging that the Circuit Court erred in allowing evidence of his prior convictions to be admitted.

The Court of Appeals has concluded that the court did not abuse its discretion in allowing the evidence.

“Moreover, even if we were to find an abuse of discretion, the error was harmless due to the overwhelming evidence of Galarza’s guilt,” the ruling reads. “We therefore affirm.”

All nine justices concurred on the result; three did not agree on all points but did not write separate opinions.