Two men who are material witnesses in a City of Moab murder case seek to be released from the Grand County Jail pending the trial of Omar Guerro, who stands accused in the shooting death of Edgar Luna Najera.
In the meantime, Seventh District Judge Don Torgerson is bound to follow a recent amendment to Utah criminal procedure rules regarding securing such witnesses’ testimony that goes into effect May 1 – a date that will undoubtedly arrive long before the trial date of Omar Guerro, who was arrested on Halloween in Arizona, three days after Najera was shot in the chest and head.
Both men, Jaime Solis and Jorge Hernandez, were originally charged with obstruction, but prosecutors offered to drop those charges if they testified against Guerro at trial. After they testified at his preliminary hearing, prosecutors filed three kidnapping charges against Guerro related to him allegedly forcing the men and Najera’s girlfriend to help him escape law enforcement on the night of the killing.
The witnesses testified he pointed a loaded weapon at them to compel them to do his bidding. Guerro, Solis and Hernandez then went on a bizarre three-day trip that ended with a 100-mile pursuit with law enforcement. They have been in custody since then.
After defense attorneys raised a few concerns, Torgerson set an evidentiary hearing for April 12 in order to get the men’s testimony on record so they can be released from jail.
That doesn’t mean they will be free to go about their business. Deputy County Attorney Matt Brooks pointed out Solis, Hernandez and Guerro are in the country illegally and have ICE holds.
Guerro is currently undergoing a mental competency evaluation to determine whether he should be made to stand trial. His next court date is May 7.