Part One:Dark turns of tragedy - Girl’s role in brutal 2006 murder remains uncertain
Veronica clutched the infant tighter to her chest each time the girl in the next room screamed.
The 13-year-old had watched as her guardian - Samuel Villarreal - abducted his girlfriend from a Weslaco McDonald's.
She sat helplessly as he attacked 16-year-old Aida Mae Rodriguez - first with a Taser, and then a metal pipe.
And moments earlier, she had silently opened her arms as the girl she once counted among her closest friends handed over her 7-month-old daughter.
"Do what you want to me, just please don't hurt my baby," Veronica would later recall the young mother saying.
Authorities have since described this harrowing scene as just one of many in Veronica's tragic life.
The victim of years of sexual and mental abuse, the girl bore witness to one of Hidalgo County's most bizarre murder cases in years. It's a tale of incest, jealousy, rape and dark family secrets, but one in which Veronica's role remains uncertain.
Since the conviction of Aida Mae's killer last year, new evidence has surfaced that suggests Veronica may have been more than just a passive witness.
A key participant in the crime now accuses her of orchestrating the attack on her friend, lying to the men in her life to gain their help and even pulling the trigger herself.
But investigators still maintain anything she might have done, she did in fear of her life.
The Monitor began a two-part series re-examining Aida Mae's 2006 slaying through case files, trial testimony and interviews with several witnesses. And, two years later, Veronica remains just as much a mystery.
Part Two:Why was Aida Mae killed? - Did Villarreal kill lover to protect his ward or his secret?
Veronica shuffled toward the witness stand, never once making eye contact with the man she had accused of murder.
Two years after the slaying of teen mother Aida Mae Rodriguez, Hidalgo County prosecutors had brought the 15-year-old to testify against Juan Tello Hinojosa, a 38-year-old family friend charged in large part because of Veronica's earlier statements.
But it was not a story Veronica wanted to retell.
She first told sheriff's investigators in December 2006 that Hinojosa, another man and her guardian — Samuel Villarreal — had kidnapped, tortured and fatally shot 16-year-old Aida Mae to avenge a plot they believed she organized to have Veronica gang raped.
Villarreal had been so incensed by Veronica's sexual assault, he told nearly everyone of his plans to kill his then girlfriend.
But in the intervening months, Veronica's story had changed significantly.
She had twice tried to dodge a subpoena requiring her presence in court.
Now that she was here, her dead-eyed expression never wavered as she described the last moments of the girl she once counted among her closest friends.
By the end of the day, she would be called a liar and a murderer.
See also:Slain mom's short life was marked by troublesUPDATED: Two grim finds: Baby along road and mom's bodyMan on trial for allegedly aiding in murderMan admits to killing teen girlfriendValley man found not guilty for 2006 murder case