For two years, Utah authorities have accused one man — Richard Lawrence Trujillo — of pulling the trigger and killing another man in an apparent robbery gone wrong at a Millcreek apartment.
But earlier this month, a Salt Lake County jury acquitted the man of all charges.
Trujillo, 29, was one of four people charged with aggravated robbery and murder in the 2015 shooting death of 32-year-old Gildardo Toledo at an apartment located at 875 W. Meadowbrook Expressway (4000 South).
The three other co-defendants either pleaded guilty to reduced charges, and or were convicted at trial. But on Nov. 16, Trujillo was found not guilty of all charges following a four-day trial in 3rd District Court.
Prosecutors alleged that the fatal shooting was the result of a scuffle between Trujillo, Toledo and a third man, Francisco Ricky Garcia. They say Garcia smashed a vodka bottle on Toledo’s head before Trujillo fired a single shot into the victim’s chest on May 25, 2015.
“This event happened quickly,” prosecutor Joseph Hill told jurors during his closing argument, according to a recording obtained this week by The Tribune.
But defense attorney Jeffrey N. Clark told jurors that there was no proof Trujillo was even at the Millcreek apartment on that May night.
He claimed that there wasn’t a shred of physical evidence — no DNA, hair analysis, fingerprints or skin cells — that proves his client was present. Instead, Clark argued, prosecutors relied solely on the stories of Trujillo’s co-defendants, whom he claims lied about Trujillo’s involvement to protect themselves.
“They are convicted liars, convicted felons,” Clark argued, “witnesses willing to say inconsistent or incorrect things either to get their way or save their own skin.”
Two women, Alisha Hope Moore and Sarah Marlen Ortiz, were also in the apartment the night of the fatal shooting — and both pleaded guilty to reduced charges for their role in Toledo’s death.
The defense attorney accused Ortiz of lying about Trujillo being in the apartment to protect Garcia, her boyfriend, and to get a favorable plea deal. Another man who claimed he drove Trujillo to the apartment that night also had motive to lie, Clark argued, because his girlfriend was also involved in some sort of relationship with Trujillo.
“He had motive all along to lie,” Clark argued. “Any chance he can get to lie about Richard, he’ll take it. That’s really getting his way, a lot more than a [plea] deal.”
Neither Hill nor Clark returned phone calls seeking comment after the verdict.
A jury in March convicted Garcia, 36, of murder and aggravated robbery, and he is now serving a prison sentence of up to life.
Both Moore, 31, and Ortiz, 27, pleaded guilty to reduced charges of manslaughter and robbery. Moore was sentenced in April to spend up to 30 years in prison, while Ortiz received 36 months probation.
The apartment where Toledo had been staying belonged to the woman with whom he had a child. The mother and child were at of town at the time of the shooting.
Prosecutors allege the plan was for Moore and Ortiz to go to the apartment, where Ortiz would unlock the back door for the Trujillo and Garcia to enter and the group would rob Toledo of money and drugs.
Trujillo was accused of shooting Toledo with a .45-caliber handgun, before the group fled in a car and hid the gun in the bushes. Toledo’s family found his body days later inside the apartment.