Utah man ordered to stand trial in death of his uncle
A 25-year-old man accused of killing two men, including his uncle, in a garage shootout last year in Sandy has been ordered to stand trial.
Alex Leroy Vasquez is charged with felony counts of murder, aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping, felony discharge of a firearm with injury, and two counts of buying, transferring or possessing a firearm by a restricted person. If he's convicted, he could spend up to life in prison.
After two days of testimony from witnesses, law enforcement and forensic experts, 3rd District Judge Charlene Barlow on Tuesday ordered Vasquez to stand trial for the slaying of his uncle Simon Vasquez, 40, and Paul Giovale, 41.
He pleaded not guilty to all charges.
According to testimony at a hearing in May, Alex Vasquez and several others including his uncle, Giovale and a woman named Cindy James were hanging out inside a garage of a Sandy home on Aug. 13 when Vasquez left and quickly returned with two men and a woman, who he ordered against the back wall.
He pulled out a gun and ordered Simon Vasquez to frisk everyone, looking for weapons or drugs, witnesses said.
Giovale turned quickly, pulling out a gun of his own, court documents state. Alex Vasquez returned fire with his .38-caliber revolver, hitting Giovale in the chest, neck and upper back, the documents state.
Simon Vasquez and James were hit in the crossfire. Giovale died at the scene.
Detectives testified that Simon Vasquez was not immediately killed in by the barrage of bullets let loose inside the garage at 80 E. 8640 South.
He was left paralyzed, a quadriplegic, and relied on medical treatment to stabilize his blood pressure and oxygen levels. Nine days after he was shot in the neck, the man decided to end his life.
Before he died, officials said, he wanted to speak to a detective.
"The thing he wanted to make clear was that Alex Vasquez pulled his gun out first," Sandy police Detective Tyson Downey testified at the May hearing.
No motive for the shooting was giving in charging documents, but detectives said Simon Vasquez told them he believed the shooting was prompted by the alleged theft of a vehicle by his nephews Andrew and Alex Vasquez. The vehicle contained a large amount of drugs, he told the detective, and when the brothers returned the car to the owner, the drugs were allegedly missing.
Alex Vasquez's fiance, Valerie Jansen, has insisted on his innocence, saying he did not even own a gun. She blamed Giovale for the shooting and said he was the aggressor.
According to court documents, Alex Vasquez was convicted in 2007 in state court of unlawful possession of a vehicle and escape from custody. He was in prison from 2008 to January 2012, when he was paroled.
He is scheduled to appear in court again next month.