First-degree murder charges dismissed as two Moab teens plead guilty to lesser charges in juvenile court
by Lisa J. Church
Staff Writer
Jul 25, 2013 | 5738 views | 0 0 comments | 88 88 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A Moab teen admitted Monday, July 22, that he fired the shots that killed his mother’s boyfriend on March 25. During a July 22 hearing in Grand County Juvenile Court, Brody Blu Kruckenberg, 17, pleaded guilty to manslaughter, a second-degree felony, in the shooting death of Gregorio Salazar Campos. Kruckenberg also admitted his guilt in obstructing justice, a second-degree felony, for his role in covering up the homicide.

Seventh District Juvenile Court Judge Mary Manley sentenced Kruckenberg to incarceration in a secure juvenile detention facility until he turns 21. The judge also recommended a neuro-psychological examination for Kruckenberg.

Kruckenberg and Charles “Tony” Nelson, both 16 at the time of their arrests on April 7, were originally charged as adults in 7th District Court with one count each of first-degree felony murder for the slaying of Campos. Campos’ body was discovered April 7 in the Colorado River. Kruckenberg and Nelson were also charged with one count each of obstruction of justice.

Seventh District Judge Lyle Anderson dismissed the adult charges and lesser charges were filed this week against Kruckenberg and Nelson, who are now 17, in 7th District Juvenile Court.

During the July 22 juvenile court hearing, Nelson also pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony, for his role in assisting Kruckenberg with covering up the homicide. Nelson is awaiting sentencing, pending an assessment by the Division of Juvenile Justice Services. He is scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 9.

Grand County Attorney Andrew Fitzgerald said several factors played a role in his decision to move the cases to juvenile court.

“These charges looked so different after the investigation was completed,” he said in an interview on July 23. “Tony obviously belonged in juvenile court so the decision to move his case was pretty natural. With Brody, he gave a full confession and was truthful. That led to [Nelson] not being tried for a crime he didn’t commit.”

Fitzgerald said Kruckenberg suffered head injuries as the result of a skiing accident when he was 13, which affected his cognitive abilities.

“This was a case of a stressed out teen in a difficult situation with some very bad people around him,” Fitzgerald said. “And he had no tools, really, to deal with that situation.”

During the juvenile court hearing, Fitzgerald and Grand County Sheriff’s Detective Brent Pace painted a portrait of Kruckenberg as an easily influenced teen who was manipulated by several adults into believing Campos was a danger to Kruckenberg’s mother and “something had to be done about him.”

Campos was involved in drug trafficking and provided cocaine and methamphetamines to Kruckenberg and Nelson, Pace said. Investigators also believe that Campos was “grooming” Kruckenberg to become a drug dealer, he said.

Campos’ involvement with drugs had created conflicts with several of the adults who were attempting to manipulate Kruckenberg, Fitzgerald said.

“We believe he was competition for them and they wanted him out of the way,” he said.

Pace said Kruckenberg admitted in a confession to investigators that he shot Campos, 33, while the man was asleep in bed at the home Kruckenberg shared with his mother, Corina Yardley, on Riversands Road in Moab.

“Brody said he went and got his .22 rifle and he pointed it through the doorway in his mother’s bedroom, but the scope was too strong and he couldn’t see anything through it,” Pace said. “He and Tony took the scope off. Tony left. Brody couldn’t take it any more and he shot [Campos] three times.”

When the homicide was first discovered in early April, investigators initially believed, based on information from an informant, that Nelson fired the shots that killed Campos. However, as the investigation by the Grand County Sheriff’s Office continued, “investigators determined that Nelson’s activities [on the day of the killing] didn’t fit the timeline,” Grand County Attorney Andrew Fitzgerald told 7th District Juvenile Court Judge Mary Manley this week. “We have no information that Tony participated in the murder.”

He said investigators determined that Nelson did assist with covering up the homicide.

“Tony’s role was that once the victim had been killed, [Kruckenberg] called and said ‘get over here,’” Fitzgerald said. “He got over there and saw a body wrapped in a tarp and was surprised by what he found.”

Fitzgerald said Nelson aided Kruckenberg in coming up with a plan to dispose of Campos’ body, and that two adults – both unrelated to either teen – also provided assistance.

“Tony and Brody went to City Market and bought rope. We have video from the store, and we have [the teens’] confessions,” Fitzgerald said, adding that the rope was used to tie a bumper to Campos’ body, which was then dumped in the Colorado River.

Fitzgerald said Nelson was not present when Campos’ body was placed in the river, but the two adults helped Kruckenberg get rid of the body and clean up the crime scene at the home on Riversands Road.

“[Nelson] was actually taken home before the body was disposed of in the river,” Fitzgerald told the court.

Kruckenberg’s mother, Corina Yardley, pleaded guilty earlier this month to two misdemeanor counts of obstruction of justice. She was released from Grand County Jail, ordered to pay a fine and placed on probation for 36 months.

Rocio Herrera, the sister of Gregorio Campos, told Kruckenberg during the court hearing that her brother’s death has been difficult for his family in Moab and his wife and children in Mexico.

“I think that when [Kruckenberg] did what he did, he was not considering that he was going to leave some children without a father. My family is suffering a lot. They must be punished according to the law. I just want justice for what happened to my brother. That’s all I ask – justice.”

Herrera said her brother had lived in Moab for four years and “never had a problem with anybody.”

“I think he did not deserve to end like this ... I don’t understand why they did that to him. And on top of that, they just threw him into the river,” she said. “I don’t understand why they did that to him. So much damage.”

Kruckenberg’s attorney, Rich Uday, said the teen regrets his actions.

“Brody is very embarrassed and saddened by the death of [Campos] ...” Uday said. “Brody had been significantly manipulated and worked up into committing this act. Once the shooting had been accomplished, he was under the direction of these adults. Neither of these two boys were leading this effort.”

Fitzgerald said the evolution of the case is an example of why people need to reserve judgment about any individual who has been charged with a crime.

“It’s a good lesson for people to remember that someone is innocent until proven guilty,” he said. “That real life thing is just a little reminder to all of us.”

He also praised the sheriff’s investigators.

“They kept an open mind as the evidence continued to be revealed,” he said. “It was really good work.”

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