Court finds Brownwood murder suspect competent to stand trial

Michael John Zarate

BROWNWOOD, Texas - The 35th Judicial District Court ruled Tuesday that a Brownwood man accused of a 2014 murder is competent to stand trial.

Judge Steve Ellis issued the ruling against Michael Zarate, 33, and set a tentative trial date for Sept. 11, according to the district clerk's office.

Police charged Zarate with murder and tampering with evidence in the November 2014 shooting death of Ernesto Gonzalez Jr.

Zarate was also charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child and indecency with a child stemming from incidents that occurred in July of 2013, according to documents.

The court originally found Zarate incompetent for trial on March 16, 2015, and sent him to a maximum security hospital for 120 days with the goal of "Zarate [gaining the] competence to stand trial," according to court documents.

Zarate also made a request on Tuesday to withdraw his lawyer, which Judge Ellis denied, according to the district clerk.

Zarate remains in jail on bonds totaling $650,000, according to Brown County Jail records.

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