32 years to life for convicted killer

Torgerson: ‘This was an execution’

Omar Guerro, pictured here testifying at his trial in late May, was sentenced from 32 years to life in prison Tuesday following his murder and kidnapping conviction. Photo by Doug McMurdo

Omar Guerro will spend more than three decades in Utah State Prison following his conviction on murder and aggravated kidnapping counts, along with another felony conviction related to being a prohibited possessor of a firearm.

A jury found Guerro, also known as Martin Armenta, 33, guilty on May 31 following four days of testimony.

“This was an execution,” said Judge Don Torgerson on Tuesday, June 11, before he sentenced Guerro to a term of 16 years to life on the murder and kidnapping counts – sentences that will run consecutive, meaning he has to spend at least 16 years in prison before he begins his second sentence of 16 to life. Torgerson, presiding over his first murder trial, also sentenced Guerro to a term of 1 to 15 years on the weapons conviction, which will run concurrent, or at the same time, as the other terms.

Because the jury found Guerro used a gun to kill Edgar Luna “Rojo” Nagera and kidnap one of the three people he forced to help him escape police detection, the judge added two additional years to his sentence, meaning he will spend a minimum of 32 years in prison. He will be roughly 67 years old then, and subject to deportation to Mexico. He was also ordered to pay $3,400 in restitution to a man who unwittingly let Guerro and others borrow his Chevrolet Avalanche, which was totaled after a law enforcement pursuit in Arizona.

His troubles don’t end there. Guerro has allegedly assaulted two prisoners in the Grand County Jail, one before his trial and one after. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss the first felony case following the jury’s verdict, but Guerro faces a July 23 preliminary hearing in the second case, which involved the alleged beating of a local man serving jail time following a sixth DUI conviction.

In arguing for consecutive sentences, prosecutor Brent Langston said kidnapping victim Jorge Hernandez Ayala “must have been terrified” for the four days he was held against his will, wondering “not if, but when” Guerro would end his life like he did Nagera’s, who was Ayala’s friend.

Langston said he didn’t think Guerro premeditated Nagera’s murder, reasoning he would have planned a better exit strategy if that were the case, but neither was the killing done in the “heat of passion.” Indeed, he said the victim on the night of Oct. 28 “very coldly executed the victim when the defendant shot him through the head.”

Langston noted Guerro testified that he felt nothing about Nagera’s life and death as he did not know the man. Prior to the killing, Guerro first shot Nagera in the chest after accusing him of stealing a large amount of methamphetamine from him – and killing and dismembering his wife and children. Nobody who witnessed the incident had ever met Guerro’s family.

Langston said rehabilitation would not work on Guerro, because of his lack of concern for the victims. “All we can do is protect society by putting him in prison for as long as possible,” he said. “He’s proud of what he did.”

There was discussion regarding the somewhat unusual mixed verdict. While jurors found Guerro guilty of kidnapping Ayala, they acquitted him on kidnapping counts regarding Jaime Solis and Breeanna Quinn, who were also taken from the murder scene at gunpoint. Quinn, the victim’s girlfriend, testified she helped facilitate the escape, and Solis got away from Guerro only to return once the defendant threatened his family. Ayala, on the other hand, was never separated from Guerro throughout the four-day attempted getaway.

Defense attorney Steve Russell said the verdict was what it was, but he argued it “was difficult to get his head around” where Guerro could be found guilty of one kidnapping and not two others when they all stem from the same set of circumstances. But he also said those charges, along with the weapons charge, were “add-ons” the prosecution piled on after Guerro refused to accept the plea offer.

On that note, Russell said the offer was to “plead guilty, which is no plea offer at all.” He requested the judge run Guerro’s sentences concurrent to each another.

Torgerson said it was “perfectly reasonable” to consider how the jury could have reached the conclusions it did and accepted the verdicts. “Murder is the worst you can do to another person,” said Torgerson. “This was an execution, a shot to the head after an interrogation … over a drug deal.” The judge said Guerro exhibited “not even a modicum” of sympathy or empathy for the victim.

He also mentioned Ayala and the ordeal he endured, after he “saw his close friend shot twice, his money stolen … the fear must have been extreme.”

The judge also noted Guerro, a Mexican National, committed his crimes while in the United States illegally, where he was also selling drugs. “No one deserves to be shot in the head,” he said.

Prior to the sentencing, Nagera’s cousin Marianne Nagera read a letter from his mother, who was unable to make the trip to Moab from Mexico due to poor health. “He did not just kill my son,” she read. “He killed me inside and left me empty.” She went on to say Guerro left her grandchildren without a father and she said the damage that has been caused goes far beyond Moab.

Ayala and Solis appeared before the judge immediately after the hearing. He thanked them for agreeing to testify in pursuit of justice after releasing the material witness warrants that have kept them in jail for eight months. They won’t be released from custody. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has holds on both men and they will be deported.