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Utah triple-murder suspect ordered to stand trial

Published February 8, 2014 5:31 pm

Courts • David Fresques, 26, could face the death penalty.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

West Jordan • The man accused of killing three people in cold blood inside a Midvale home last year is headed to trial.

After three days of testimony from witnesses, experts, law enforcement and the sole victim to survive the 2013 attack, 3rd District Judge Mark Kouris ordered David Fresques to stand trial on three counts of aggravated murder and one count of attempted aggravated murder.

Fresques went from room to room on Feb. 12, 2013, witnesses testified, gun in hand. It took mere minutes, prosecutors said, for him to kill Omar Jarman, 35, Danielle Lucero, 26, and Shontay Young, 34, before fleeing the scene.

Prosecutors have two months to decide whether or not they will seek the death penalty against the 26-year-old defendant.

Fresques pleaded not guilty to all charges, and prosecutors told The Tribune a plea is unlikely in this case.

"We're happy because this case is moving along, not just for us but for the families," said prosecutor Robert Stott after the hearing. "They want to see justice."

Dozens of the victims' family members packed the courtroom for the three-day hearing this week.

When there were tears, they held each other. When there were questions, they consulted each other.

On their way out of the courtroom Friday, the mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and aunts and cousins hugged and squeezed each others' hands in the hall.

"I woke up this morning and I just knew that this was how it would go; I felt good about it then, and I feel good about it now," said Randy Candelaria, Jarman's brother-in-law. "To me, it's open and shut. It's done. I just want [Fresques] to own up to what he's done."

But defense attorney Lisa Remal told the judge that the state's case is unreliable and inconsistent — based heavily on witnesses who had been doing drugs and committing crimes at the time of the killings.

"The witnesses who testified they were with or saw Mr. Fresques were all under the influence of methamphetamine," Remal argued, noting that several witnesses had entered into deals with prosecutors that would spare them criminal charges or lengthy sentences. "That can provide a bias for a witness and a basis for untruthful testimony because they are so much wanting to protect themselves."

She asked the judge to dismiss the case for insufficient evidence, but Kouris declined.

Prosecutor Nathan Evershed told the judge: "There is nothing inconsistent about who had the gun inside the home and who did the shootings."

He pointed to statements the defendant allegedly made to friends in the hours after the killing, including a chilling admission that Fresques "ran out of bullets."

Stott pointed out the reckless nature of the shooting — there were several other people in the room when the bullets began to fly — and argued everyone in that home was in danger.

It certainly felt that way to Ester Arredondo, who lived in the home and was awakened the morning of Feb. 12, 2013, by a strange man in her bedroom demanding she go upstairs.

The man, she would later learn, was Davis Romney Fotu, who testified he was simply following directions from Fresques.

Arredondo said there were several strangers in her home with a man she recognized as "Twisted" — a nickname for Fresques. She got a bad feeling and turned to ascend a second flight of stairs to the top level of the home.

That's when, Arredondo said, she saw a flash, heard a bang.

"It just happened so fast," she testified Thursday. "I ran up the stairs and went into the bathroom and locked it, and I jumped into the bathtub, and that's when I heard some other shots in the house."

Arredondo said she crouched in the bathtub, in fear for her life, until the shooting ceased.

When she finally left the room, she found Jarman slumped and not breathing on a turquoise chair in the living room. Young was lying facedown in a pool of her own blood next to a chair in which she had been sleeping. Lucero was lying atop blood-stained sheets in an upstairs bedroom, dead from two gunshots.

Nicole Brass, who used to live in the home at 8286 S. Adams St. (450 West), testified that drug deals were a frequent occurrence and drew a constant parade of people in and out of the house.

Just weeks before the shooting, the house had been raided by law enforcement, according to testimony. The front door had been broken and could no longer be used.

Fresques had met Young before at the home. On the morning of the shootings, Feb. 12, Fresques arrived with Jarman and Fotu and a woman named Rayna Curtis.

It was not clear whether Fresques knew Lucero or Vickie Myers, the woman who lived through the shootings.

The picture throughout the preliminary hearing was one of petty grudges: Fres​ques, it seemed, thought Jarman was a snitch, and Fresques didn't like Young, witnesses said, because she was black.

A firearms expert testified Friday that the shooter used a .9mm Makarov handgun, and of the six shell casings recovered from the scene, five appeared to come from the same weapon. The sixth casing was the same caliber and type, but did not contain markings that would distinguish its origin clearly enough to point to the murder weapon, said Justin Becharer.

Fotu, who was with Fresques that day despite having just met him just the night before, pleaded guilty in October to second-degree obstruction of justice in this case.

Since his plea deal was contingent on his cooperation in the preliminary hearing against Fresques, he will be sentenced later this month.

mlang@sltrib.com

Twitter: @Marissa_Jae