The narrative that opposing attorneys provide to jurors when they present their respective opening statements during a trial is not evidence. That’s the role of witnesses, and one of them has devastating news for defendant Omar Guerro, also known as Martin Armenta and several other names, who faces murder and three aggravated kidnapping counts. It’s also alleged he was a prohibited possessor of a firearm.
According to prosecutor Brent Langston, an expert witness from the state crime lab will tell jurors that he or she examined two spent bullets and shell casings from a black and silver .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun law enforcement officers found in a home where a man was shot to death – and that those spent bullets and casings match a black and silver .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun law enforcement officers found in the desert at the end of a pursuit in Tuba City, Arizona Oct. 31, three days after longtime Moab resident Edgar Luna “Rojo” Najera was shot twice inside a singlewide at a Walnut Lane trailer court.
Langston, the Deputy Emery County Attorney who takes on conflict cases as the Grand County Attorney Pro Tem, said witnesses will testify they saw Guerro shoot Najera – and those same witnesses will say the defendant forced them at gunpoint to help him avoid capture.
Defense Attorney Steve Russell in his opening statement encouraged jurors to listen for the inconsistencies in that testimony and he admonished them to remember everybody who was present that night had been taking drugs and drinking alcohol and that they were unreliable witnesses.
Langston conceded the witnesses were drug users, and that alone would alter their perception of reality, but he also said each of them would state unequivocally that an increasingly irrational Guerro twice pulled the trigger that night.
He said they would testify that Guerro, a citizen of Mexico who is allegedly not authorized to be in the U.S., shot Najera – a methamphetamine user known as Rojo due to his red hair – over suspicions Najera and a teenager known as Kevin Valencia stole a large quantity of meth from him. Guerro said they also knew what happened to his family. He told people at the home both his drugs and his wife and children went missing in Arizona.
Najera reportedly told Guerro he had no idea what he was talking about. Nobody at Guerro’s Dec. 21 preliminary hearing suggested either Najera or Valencia had recently been in Arizona.
The first bullet, said Langston, struck Najera in the right side of his chest, traversed the chest and then went through his left arm. He collapsed to the ground, said the attorney, screaming and in agony.
His girlfriend, Breeanna Quinn, ran to Najera. She told Guerro he knew nothing. Najera looked at others in the room, pleading for help. Guerro told him to quit crying and to “quit being a woman.” He called him a dog, said Langston. Najera for the last time said he didn’t know anything before Guerro told him that was his last chance.
The second bullet, said Langston, went into Najera’s left temple and exited his right temple. Quinn at Guerro’s preliminary hearing said she saw the life go out of his eyes before he slumped to the floor.
The prosecutor said Guerro looked at Valencia and told the man he was next. Valencia ran down the hall when Moab resident Jaime Solis told Guerro he needed to flee before the police arrived.
Langston explained how they were able to get out of Moab and make it to Green River and from there to St. George and then to Page, Arizona and ultimately to the Tuba City community on the Navajo Reservation, where on Halloween Arizona law enforcement officers pursued Guerro, Solis and Hernandez for 100 miles before their vehicle overheated. Quinn managed to run away after they ditched Hernandez’s SUV in Moab. She ran to a friend’s home. She did not call the police to report the incident. Guerro allegedly told the three he would harm their families and knew where they lived.
The witnesses at Guerro’s preliminary hearing testified Guerro and Hernandez ingested meth throughout the three days and were awake the entire time, as was Solis, who testified he didn’t ingest meth that night – a comment that prompted the normally stoic Guerro to laugh out loud.
Langston said Guerro was seen tossing something before he ran in one direction and Solis and Hernandez in another before all three were captured and taken into custody. The handgun was recovered. Not only did the bullets that killed Najera and their casings match the gun; a perfect match to Guerro’s fingerprint was found on the weapon’s magazine, according to Langston.
“What this case will show is this case is nothing more than a big drug transaction gone very bad,” said Russell. He told jurors the burden of proof was on the state. He said the evidence will show the eyewitnesses were “totally, completely unreliable,” that they were either drug users or dealers.
“Listen for the inconsistencies and ask if their conduct makes any sense,” said Russell before adding Guerro might even testify. He closed with this entreaty: “When all is said and done, his life will be in your hands, literally.”
“These [witnesses] were, frankly, drug users” said Langston in explaining why witness testimony won’t perfectly align, but they “all agree Guerro was the shooter.”
Testimony was still being delivered when The Times-Independent went to press Wednesday afternoon.