Updated: Park City murder conviction relied on ‘evidence of intent, intent to kill’
Jury returns a guilty verdict in the first shooting death in city since 2003
A 3rd District Court jury on Friday afternoon convicted a man of murder in a 2016 shooting death of a well-known Park City bartender, siding with the prosecution’s contention that the victim was not a threat at the time he was shot.
James Henfling, 29, shot Jose Fernandez in a Park City condominium on the 1500 block of Empire Avenue. Fernandez, who was 37 and lived in Park City, died four days later. The jury found Henfling guilty of murder and felony discharge of a firearm. Sentencing is scheduled Jan. 10. Henfling is incarcerated at the Summit County Jail awaiting sentencing. The murder conviction carries a potential sentence of between 15 years and life in state prison. The case involves an enhancement since a dangerous weapon was used, adding one year to the minimum.
Fernandez worked at the No Name Saloon and the Boneyard Saloon. He was a part-time manager in addition to tending bar. He had been an employee for 10 years. Jesse Shetler, the owner of the two establishments, attended the trial and was in the courtroom when the verdict was read.
“There was an immediate realization that there were no winners in that courtroom. There were only victims.” Shetler said in an interview, adding, “That was the best possible verdict we could have received as family and friends of Jose.”
Shetler recalled Fernandez’s relationship with customers at the No Name Saloon and the Boneyard Saloon, saying he greeted people whether they were regulars or whether they stopped in for the first time.
“His overall good nature and welcoming character,” Shetler said. “He had a way to really make somebody feel welcome.”
He said hopes people who knew Fernandez write Judge Paige Petersen as the sentencing nears to describe the loss. Shetler said he wants people “to let the judge know just what Jose meant to them and meant to the community and what it’s like not to have him around anymore.” Shetler plans to write a letter to the judge as well.
Henfling and Fernandez were in the condominium with Henfling’s sister when a fistfight started, leading to the shooting. Henfling used a .40-caliber pistol manufactured by Glock, prosecutors said. It was the first killing inside the Park City limits since a 2003 shooting death. The police arrested Henfling at a nearby convenience store shortly after the shooting Fernandez suffered a gunshot wound to the head and died at a hospital. Henfling claimed the shooting was in self-defense.
Prosecutors said Henfling told Park City Police Department investigators he shot Fernandez on purpose. Henfling told the investigators, “I guess I should have shot him in the foot or the hand or just in the air, but natural reaction, being a hunter you shoot to kill,” according to a charging document prosecutors filed against Henfling.
Margaret Olson, the Summit County attorney, said in an interview the Henfling statement about shooting to kill was important to the prosecution’s case.
“That is evidence of intent, intent to kill,” she said.
Olson also said Henfling altered his account of the confrontation over the course of the investigation. There were “different stories about the circumstances of the shooting,” she said. Henfling claimed he was hit by a pipe or a stick, but the police did not find one and he did not suffer injuries consistent with such a strike, Olson said. She also said Henfling claimed the shooting was outside, but evidence showed it occurred inside. Olson said ballistics evidence, blood spatters and the autopsy showed Fernandez was shot at “pretty close range” while he was on the ground or close to the ground. Fernandez was in a “defensive posture” when he was shot, she said.
“His account of events was not corroborated by the physical evidence,” Olson said about Henfling.
Henfling’s attorney, Scott Williams, declined a request for a comment about the verdict.
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Park City leaders could adopt a resolution regarding the future of S.R. 248 that maintains a concept for a redo of the entryway does not jibe with community wishes.