An 18-year-old Woods Cross man accused of murder was bound over for trial following a day-long preliminary hearing Tuesday.
Third District Judge Vernice Trease ruled that prosecutors had presented enough evidence to proceed in the case against Javier Saldana-Ibarra, charged with first-degree felony murder and three counts of felony discharge of a firearm.
Saldana-Ibarra’s next hearing will be Feb. 23 in front of 3rd District Judge James Blanch.
Saldana-Ibarra’s attorney, Bel-Ami de Montreux, said the state has so far built its case mostly on circumstantial evidence.
While police and prosecutors believe four people were involved in the drive-by shooting that killed a 17-year-old Magna boy standing in front of his house and wounded the boy’s friend, Saldana-Ibarra is the only one who has been arrested.
Deputy Salt Lake County District Attorney Matthew Janzen said during Tuesday’s hearing that Saldana-Ibarra was a party to the shooting, and possibly the shooter, though he stopped short of declaring that Saldana-Ibarra fired the bullet that killed William Ryan, or struck Ryan’s 19-year-old friend in the foot.
Police responded to the house near 8000 West and 3400 South at about 11 p.m. on Aug. 19, on a report of multiple shots fired.
They found Ryan, who had been sitting on the back of a green Ford Mustang parked in his driveway, dead with a bullet wound above his right eye.
The car had several bullet holes in it.
Witnesses told police that at about 10:40 p.m. a white Volkswagen Jetta drove down the block and turned its headlights off. Windows on the front and back driver’s side went down, and seven to 12 shots were fired.
Police found four casings in the roadway, three being .40-caliber and one a .22-caliber.
Following the shots, the vehicle’s lights went on and it sped away, police said.
One of Ryan’s friends, who at the time was a member of the Norteño gang, recognized the car as belonging to Saldana-Ibarra, who is a member of the rival Surenos Chiques gang, according to court testimony.
Police subsequently located the Jetta and found two .22-caliber bullet casings that matched those left at the scene, and a bullet in the center console. Saldana-Ibarra was arrested.
But during testimony Tuesday, the 19-year-old said that while he had heard of Saldana-Ibarra and seen him on social media, he had never communicated with him. Further, though Ryan hung around the Norteños, he wasn’t a member.
“I don’t see the motive at all,” de Montreux said after the hearing. “Why would my client particularly have a beef with these people?”
Police said they had responded to the Magna house a month or two before the shooting for a report of the same car being involved in a drive-by BB-gun shooting.
Casings left at the Aug. 19 crime scene and found in Saldana-Ibarra’s car also matched a recent West Valley City drive-by.
But de Montreux said it’s not clear if his client was in the car, and if he was, it’s not clear he was the shooter.
Several witnesses claimed they saw two shooters, one being the driver of the car. But only one witness, a nearby resident in his car, fingered Saldana-Ibarra as the driver.
But that witness also claimed the driver had gauged ears. In court, Saldana-Ibarra’s earlobes showed no signs of being stretched to fit gauged earrings, and de Montreux pointed to that aspect as a flaw in the state’s case.
Further, he asked, where are the other three who were allegedly in the car with Saldana-Ibarra?
“It’s almost like a fragmented story without all the actors involved,” de Montreux said.