2 men charged with 2019 killing of Utah man whose body was left in his pickup truck

(Photo courtesy of West Valley City) The body of Jesus Vasquez was found Dec. 7, 2019 in this Nissan Frontier pickup truck at a parking lot near 2835 S. 2855 West.

Two men were charged Monday with the killing of a Utah man who was found shot to death in his pickup truck almost 11 months ago.

Jonathan Alexander Morales-Lopez, 19, and Jose Luis “Taku” Amaya-Urquijo, 23, of West Valley City, were charged in 3rd District Court with murder and aggravated robbery, first-degree felonies; and obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony. Amaya-Urquijo has also been charged with discharging a firearm causing serious injury, a first-degree felony; and possession of a weapon by a restricted person, a second-degree felony.

On Dec. 7, 2019, the body of Jesus Vasquez, 31, was found in the passenger seat of his pickup truck. According to police, the body showed signs of having been dragged and Vasquez was believed to have been killed at another location and driven to a church parking lot at 2835 S. 2855 West. An autopsy determined he had suffered “multiple gunshot wounds,” and two bullets were removed from his body.

Police contacted the last person Vasquez had communicated with on his cellphone, and that woman told a West Valley City police detective that she had arranged for Vasquez to meet her and three other people — including Morales-Lopez and Amaya-Urquijo — in a shed on the evening of Dec. 6. According to the woman, there was a “physical altercation” between the two men and the victim. She said she saw Amaya-Urquijo fire a handgun; and then she saw Amaya-Urquijo and Vasquez leave in the truck.

According to another woman who was in the shed, Amaya-Urquijo pointed a handgun at the victim and demanded money and drugs. Vasquez pulled out his wallet and said he had neither, and Amaya-Urquijo said he knew the victim was lying. The witness said that as that was happening, Morales-Lopez “suddenly sat up and fired his handgun three times” over Vasquez’s head. When Vasquez fled from the shed, Amaya-Urquijo fired at him.

According to charging documents, Morales-Lopez told detectives he was asleep in the shed and was awakened by gunfire, and that he saw Amaya-Urquijo point a handgun at Vasquez, who ran with Amaya-Urquijo in pursuit. And, Morales-Lopez said, by the time he got outside, the victim was lying motionless on the ground. Amaya-Urquijo dragged Vasquez to the truck, Morales-Lopez helped put the body in the truck, and Amaya-Urquijo drove off with the body next to him.

When he was arrested by Unified Police on Jan. 10, Amaya-Urquijo had in his possession a handgun, which he admitted was his, according to police. The gun was later determined to be the weapon that killed Vasquez. And Amaya-Urquijo’s DNA was found on the steering wheel of Vasquez’s pickup truck.

Both Amaya-Urquijo and Morales-Lopez were charged in January with stealing guns from a store; the state charges were later dismissed when federal charges were filed. Both men are being held without bail — Amaya-Urquijo in the Weber County jail, and Morales-Lopez in the Tooele County jail.