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Murder suspect competent to stand trial

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

A 20-year-old Wasatch County man who is accused of slaying a popular Park City deacon is competent to stand trial next March, a Fourth District Court judge has ruled.

After the suspect’s 9-day jury trial was delayed in November, Judge Samuel McVey, after a short, Dec. 12 competency hearing, said, mentally, Cunny Antonio Pelaez is able to face a first-degree felony charge of aggravated murder, for which he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

But prosecutors won’t seek the death penalty for Pelaez, according to Wasatch County Attorney Thomas Low.

After a hearing Jan. 24 where attorneys are slated to argue all outstanding motions in the case, Pelaez’s 10-day jury trial is scheduled to begin March 20, 2007.

In 2005, prosecutors say Pelaez conspired with his father, 56-year-old Antonio Vasquez-Pelaez, to kill Heber resident Aniceto Armendariz Jr. as the religious leader drove eastbound on U.S. 40 near Mayflower.

An 8-day murder trial for Vasquez-Pelaez is scheduled to begin April 24, 2007. Both suspects remain incarcerated in Wasatch County.

Attorneys began to question the mental competency of the younger suspect when he insisted he was not guilty of the alleged crimes, said Pelaez’s attorney, Scott Williams, who added in a recent interview that the suspect has not cooperated in his defense.

The judge reviewed reports from two therapists appointed by the state before making last week’s decision about Pelaez’s competency.

Charges against Pelaez became enhanced when the defendant admitted he knew Armendariz’s wife, Alma, was in the vehicle at the time of the alleged shooting, prosecutors say.

Armendariz allegedly died near the scene of the shooting Sept. 25, 2005, after he lost control of the vehicle and rolled nearly seven times on the highway.

After the alleged slaying, Low claims the defendants, who are both illegal immigrants barred from carrying firearms, collided with Armendariz’s vehicle in their van.

After they fled the scene, the suspects were captured at the Lodge at Stillwater while trying to hide from police, authorities claimed.

Armendariz worked for Summit County’s St. Mary’s Catholic Church and Holy Cross Ministries in Heber.


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