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Utah man found guilty of drug-robbery murder

Published January 17, 2014 7:18 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

No one was supposed to die on Dec. 10, 2011.

It's true the plan was to rob 24-year-old Hairam "Bullet" Torres in the early morning hours of that winter day, Eddie Garza said on the witness stand Wednesday.

"But it backfired on all of us," Garza said of the robbery.

Garza testified that the robbery took a deadly turn after Anthony "Dopey" Corona pulled the trigger on his gun — initially brought to intimidate Torres — and killed Torres, who met a group of men at a West Valley City LDS wardhouse parking lot under the impression that he was there to sell them drugs.

On Friday, a 3rd District Court jury on Friday found Corona guilty of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, five counts of felony discharge of a firearm and possession of a firearm by a restricted person.

Corona, 22, faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced.

Garza initially hatched the plot to rob Torres while he was hanging out with Christian Lizarzaburu, Lucinda Fernandez and a juvenile at Fernandez's West Valley City home. Lizarzaburu testified on Wednesday that he warned Garza that Torres had a gun.

Since none of them had a weapon, Garza said he called Corona and asked if he wanted to "make some money." He also told Corona to make sure he was armed when they picked him up, charging documents state.

After borrowing his cousin's rental car ­— a gold Chevy Malibu — Garza, the juvenile and Lizarzaburu picked up Corona and drove to meet Torres at the church parking lot at 4270 S. Falcon St. (4145 West), Garza testified.

Lizarzaburu testified that he and the juvenile got out of the car and hid behind a shed at the church so they could "assist if anything went wrong." Torres arrived soon after, and climbed into the back seat of the Malibu.

Garza said he began talking with Torres about a drug deal, but the situation somehow escalated and he heard Corona yell, "Don't reach for that," several times. By that time, Lizarzaburu had heard yelling, ran to the car, and opened the door to see a struggle taking place.

"I seen Mr. Corona had a gun pulled," Lizarzaburu testified. "Eddie [Garza] said, 'Shoot the motherf—-er.' Those were his exact words. And he shot him."

The men then left the parking lot in an SUV, leaving the Malibu and Torres' body behind.

"Before I left, I looked at Bullet [Torres] and said I'm sorry," Garza testified. "I'm sorry for what happened."

Deputy chief medical examiner Edward Leis testified Wednesday that Torres was shot twice in the chest and twice in his left arm, which Torres likely held up across his chest during the shooting. The man had marijuana and methamphetamine in his system at the time of his death, Leis testified.

Police recovered five shell casings from a .22-caliber weapon at the crime scene, along with a cellphone that had fallen out of Corona's pocket. Police also found Lizarzaburu's fingerprints at the scene.

Lizarzaburu and Garza testified during Corona's trial as part of their plea deals. Both men pleaded guilty to second-degree felony manslaughter, robbery and obstruction of justice. They are set to be sentenced on Jan. 31.

Fernandez was also charged in the case. She later took a plea deal, pleading guilty to attempted robbery and obstruction justice, both third-degree felonies. She was sentenced to 195 days in jail and 36 months probation.

jmiller@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jm_miller