Motive in deacon’s killing still unclear
The wife of a deacon who was slain in Wasatch County Sept. 25 was still reeling Friday in the wake of her husband s death and a court appearance for two murder suspects. I m not ready to talk, Heber resident Alma Armendariz said. I don t even understand how I feel. Her husband, Aniceto Armendariz Jr., died after he was shot while the couple was traveling eastbound on U.S. 40 near Mayflower. Wasatch County residents Antonio Vasquez-Pelaez, 55, and 19-year-old Cunny Antonio Pelaez each face first-degree felony murder charges and third degree felonies for allegedly being in possession of the gun. Both suspects are illegal immigrants and barred from carrying firearms, papers filed by prosecutors in Fourth District Court state. Armendariz was a religious leader for Holy Cross Ministries in Heber and St. Mary s Catholic Church in Summit County. His violent death prompted widespread speculation about whether the popular deacon knew his shooters. We haven t made much progress, Wasatch County Attorney Thomas Low said during an interview Friday, adding that investigators have not established a motive for the crime. We still don t know enough to go public. Some of the more than 100 potential witnesses interviewed by prosecutors have proposed many theories about why the homicide occurred, Low said. There are several that we find credible enough worth investigating, said the prosecutor, adding that a Department of Public Safety investigator is looking into whether Armendariz s possible work with a woman in a domestic-violence situation is related to his death. Somebody knows why this happened, Low said, adding that witnesses have praised and maligned Armendariz during interviews. We re just investigating every lead. But criminals despised the man, Low said, adding that anyone with information about the crime should contact state investigator Tony Garcia at (801) 560-1315. A murder conviction could carry a penalty of five years to life in prison and a $10,000 fine. Prosecutors have until the suspects Dec. 13 preliminary hearings to enhance the charges. Aggravated murder is punishable by a life sentence without parole and capital murder could result in execution, said Bruce Savage, defense attorney for Cunny Antonio Pelaez, who expects more serious charges to be filed against his client. Savage expects to work closely with attorney Dana Facemyer, defense counsel for the elder Pelaez. If it comes down to people pointing the fingers at each other, then that s different, Savage said during an interview. Low requested 90 days to prepare for the preliminary hearing but Judge Derek P. Pullan may have dealt the prosecutor a blow Friday by allowing him less than six weeks. Low says he is third in line at the state crime lab for forensic evidence in the case to be analyzed, adding, there are many, many items & being tested. Tests are being conducted on blood, DNA and fingerprints recovered at the scene and on the shotgun, he said. At this point, nothing has been provided related to forensics, Low told the judge this week. But Friday, Facemyer said he was not aware of the fingerprints in evidence and only began receiving discovery documents Wednesday. We re here to move the case forward, Facemyer said Friday in court, objecting to Low s request for more preparation time. One hundred days is a long time your honor, especially considering that we ve been here 30 already. Investigators say Armendariz died at the scene after he lost control of his truck and rolled the vehicle seven times after being shot. They claim the defendants were in a nearby van that collided with Armendariz s truck. The suspects were captured at the Lodge at Stillwater while trying to hide from police. Usually with homicides it s pretty clear why it happened, Low said. Here, how it happened seems to be pretty clear. It s just the why that we can t pin down. Those interested in helping the Armendariz family should contact Wasatch County Victim Advocate Lynn Robertson at (435) 657-3300.
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