Utah man ordered to trial for murder during botched robbery
Published: July 2, 2013 01:29PM
Updated: December 7, 2013 11:34PM
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Gabriel Samson Gurule

West Jordan • The last time Dalton Croft saw his 32-year-old roommate, he was on his knees, gasping, as blood poured from his chest and back.

Croft, who held his friend until he died, was the only sober person to witness the shooting that killed Justen L. LeFave on Aug. 26, 2012.

On Tuesday, Croft testified in 3rd District Court about what he saw and heard that morning: a knock at the door, the two women, a man with a handgun, the shot that killed his roommate.

His account helped persuade 3rd District Judge Charlene Barlow to order accused shooter Gabriel Samson Gurule, 34, to stand trial for the LeFave’s murder, and caused prosecutors to file another charge against the accused gunman — aggravated burglary, a first-degree felony that carries a sentence of up to life in prison.

Gurule, who is one of several accused in the 2012 shooting death of 32-year-old LeFave, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to all charges. He faces first-degree felony counts of murder, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary and obstructing justice in the shooting that killed LeFave in his own home, about 7000 South and State Street.

Gurule’s attorney Heather Chesnut argued that the crime was committed in the dark and Croft had been unable to confidently identify Gurule as the shooter in a lineup of photographs shortly after the incident. Lead Unified Police detective Robert Scott testified that Croft had been 60 percent sure that Gurule was the man who killed his roommate when he picked him out of a lineup.

Chesnut also contended that nothing was stolen from the apartment, excluding the possibility of a robbery, and that no evidence had shown Gurule was responsible for dumping the murder weapon, which was later discovered in a marsh near the apartments.

The judge disagreed.

“Why else would Mister Gurule have gone to that apartment, to the home of someone he did not personally know, except to rob him and steal his money and marijuana?” Barlow asked.

Prosecutors called several witnesses including all four of Gurule’s alleged co-conspirators to testify at the two-day proceedings.

Anthony Daniel Martinez, 30, was also charged with murder, aggravated robbery and obstructing justice for allegedly plotting the crime, acting as a getaway driver and helping to get rid of the weapon. Abegail Jennings, 35, is charged with conspiracy to commit burglary for allegedly conspiring with Gurule to rob LeFave.

Alexis Kelley Hughes, 25, and Amy Virginia Rowley, 35, face charges of first-degree felony murder and aggravated robbery for allegedly knocking at LeFave’s door and asking him for directions to another building, when Gurule stepped up from behind them and fired the fatal shot.

Croft said he didn’t recognize either Hughes nor Rowley when they knocked at the door.

“Justen looked confused, too,” Croft said. “Then a man stepped in between the girls with his gun already out and shot [LeFave].”

Croft testified that LeFave stumbled backward when he saw the gun but could not get out of the way fast enough. Croft ran into a bedroom and held the door shut for fear the gunman would also come for him.

Gurule, who has been in custody since the August 2012 incident, will be arraigned on July 29.

mlang@sltrib.com

Twitter: marissa_jae