Accused Utah killer takes stand in his own defense in 2010 shooting
For months, there were threats. There were boasts of violence yet to come, about one man gunning down the other.
A shooting seemed inevitable.
But Joshua James Montoya, 29, told a jury Wednesday that he never thought he would have been the one to pull the trigger.
Montoya, on trial for the murder of 25-year-old Amos Pacheco, testified in his own defense in 3rd District Court. He said Pacheco had threatened him for months, then pulled a gun on him March 5, 2010. He said he had no choice but to fight back.
When he saw the glint of metal in Pacheco's hand, Montoya testified, he lunged at him, wrestled the gun from Pacheco's grip. But in the scuffle, he said, he lost his balance, fell backward and accidentally squeezed the trigger.
"I didn't even know where the shot went," Montoya testified. "I saw Amos look at his stomach, look up at me and then look down again. That's when I realized he'd been shot."
But prosecutors allege that it was Montoya who armed himself, walked up to Pacheco on that afternoon more than three years ago and killed him before fleeing the scene and hiding the weapon. They claim the two had bad blood, that he had wanted to kill Pacheco, who was dating the mother of Montoya's children.
Prosecutors pushed Montoya on what motivations he may have had: he didn't like how Pacheco treated Ana Torres, his ex-girlfriend; he disapproved of the influence Pacheco was having on his oldest son.
But, Montoya said, he never meant to kill the man.
"I wanted to handle it, get it over with," Montoya said. "My children go back and forth between Ana and me all the time. And if she's with Amos, he's going to be in their life. I didn't want any problems."
What happened instead, defense attorneys said, was a "life or death" struggle that left Montoya with bruises on his arms and scratches on his chest, neck and face.
Pacheco died of a gunshot wound to the chest just outside Montoya's house, near 5700 South and 4600 West. He had gone to Montoya's house that day with Torres to drop off the defendant's three children.
After the shooting, Montoya said, he immediately feared retaliation because of Pacheco's alleged gang ties. He fled the scene, because he was scared, Montoya said.
"All I was thinking was that his family members were nearby and that they were going to retaliate," Montoya testified. "So, I ran."
Later that day, when police conducted a traffic stop on the car Montoya was driving, he gave himself up. He did not run, did not fight back. As he was seated on the curb, hands cuffed behind his back, officers testified, Montoya spoke without provocation:
"He had the gun," Montoya told officers in 2010. "It was self defense."
This is not the behavior of a guilty person, defense attorneys told the jury in opening statements.
But prosecutors countered that what Montoya did with the gun was: He stashed it at a friend's home.
Montoya is charged with first-degree felony murder and second-degree felony obstruction of justice. If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life behind bars.
The trial is scheduled to continue through the end of the week before Judge Deno Himonas.