EPHRATA — Jury selection began Monday in the murder trial of Gustavo Tapia Rodriguez, an illegal immigrant and the suspected shooter in the 2016 murder of 31-year-old Quincy resident Jill Sundberg.
Almost 70 potential jurors filed into Grant County Superior Court Monday morning for the days-long process of selecting 12 people who will decide Tapia Rodriguez’s upcoming trial, which is expected to begin Friday.
Tapia Rodriguez is facing charges of first-degree murder, with aggravating circumstances including being armed with a firearm, acting with deliberate cruelty, drive-by shooting and kidnapping. He is also facing second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.
Sundberg’s body was found Dec. 22 near a rest area on the Old Vantage Highway, near George. Court documents indicate that Sundberg and Tapia Rodriguez were involved in an argument at the Shady Tree RV Park, near Quincy, and she was kidnapped and forced in an SUV.
Tapia Rodriguez, along with co-defendants Ambrosio Mendez Villanueva and Julio Cesar Albarran Varona, allegedly took Sundberg to a rest area near George where Tapia Rodriguez shot her 13 times. After the shooting occurred, Mendez Villanueva allegedly grabbed a piece of cardboard, placed it on Sundberg’s body and plunged a knife into it.
The sheriff’s office later released the contents of the note that was handwritten on the piece of cardboard. The message, which was written in Spanish, translates as: “For all those (expletive), (expletive) and (expletive) that show no respect to the gulf cartel.”
During testimony before the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Grant County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Ryan Rectenwald said all five of the men are illegal immigrants. The Gulf Cartel is one of Mexico’s oldest drug cartels and is infamous for widespread kidnappings, human trafficking and murders on both sides of the border.
Tapia Rodriguez is also awaiting trial on separate charges involving the kidnapping and murder of 26-year-old Othello resident Arturo Sosa, who was found deceased near Royal City.