2019-02-06 / Front Page

Longtime Guerra opponent, paddling advocate, former Willacy DA Garza, dead at 65

BY ALLEN ESSEX
Staff Writer


Gustavo Ch. Garza Gustavo Ch. Garza An attorney best known locally for his long-running battle with former Willacy County District Attorney Juan Angel Guerra died Dec. 27.

Gustavo Ch. Garza, 65, was Willacy County DA from 1992 to 1996. He started his career as a teacher in his hometown of Los Fresnos.

After graduating from Los Fresnos High School in 1971, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Pan American University, was a teacher for five years, then earned a master’s degree from Texas A&I University. In 1982, he earned a juris doctor (law) degree from Creighton University at Omaha, Nebraska.

Juan Angel Guerra who was appointed Willacy County DA in 1991 was defeated by Garza, who served four years. Then Guerra was elected to six terms, with Garza as an opponent in many of those elections.

During those years, Garza and Guerra had each other arrested, indicted and filed numerous lawsuits against each other.

Guerra was defeated in 2008 by Bernard Ammerman, who served eight years before being defeated by present DA Annette Hinojosa.

In addition to numerous controversies that arose in the long-running feud between Garza and Guerra, Garza, then Cameron County Precinct 6 justice of the peace at Los Fresnos, received national news coverage when he ordered a father to spank his 15- year-old daughter in Garza’s courtroom as an alternative to a $500 fine because of the girl’s truancy from school.

The parents filed a lawsuit against Garza, claiming he overstepped his bounds. The case was eventually settled but a wave of criticism against Garza was published by opponents of corporal punishment.

After his stint as a JP, Garza returned to a previous job as a prosecutor at the Cameron County district attorney’s office before retiring in 2017.

In retirement, Garza enjoyed ranching, traveling, spending time with family and fishing.

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