Prosecutor says victim killed friend over money

By Andy Jackson: CNJ staff writer

A deputy district attorney told a Curry County jury Monday that Steven Robert Duran went to his friend’s trailer home asking for money. When the friend wouldn’t hand it over, the prosecutor said, Duran killed him.

He said Duran, 36, a heroin addict, shot his friend six times, including a fatal shot between the eyes.

“This case is about a desperate heroin addict (Duran) short on money, so he robbed and murdered his friend,” Drew Tatum said during his opening statement.

Defense attorney Gary Mitchell agrees Duran and Ricardo Gallegos were friends. He also agrees Duran had a heroin problem. But Duran did not shoot Gallegos he told the 14-member jury.

“This makes a fine story until you get to the scientific evidence … Not one person saw Steve shoot Ricky or take his money.”

Duran is accused of shooting and killing Gallegos on Jan. 13, 2004. He was arrested Jan. 29, 2004, on felony charges of murder and robber in possession of heroin.

He faces a maximum sentence of 45 years if convicted, according to the district attorney’s office.

The trial is expected to last until Wednesday, according to the jury foreman.

Judge Joe Parker fielded objections from both sides as the jury of nine women and five men squinted their eyes in concentration and listened without taking notes. At the start of the trial, the judge advised the jury that they may take notes. None did.

As the prosecution’s first witness, Mary Finnell testified she and Gallegos lived together for one year in a trailer at 1013 Sunrise while she awaited her divorce from another man. During that time, they were engaged for six months.

Tatum asked Finnell how she and Ricky made money. Finnell said Gallegos didn’t have a bank account but received a Social Security check, which he’d routinely cash, keeping the money in his pocket in a wad wrapped with a rubber band.

Finnell, a daycare worker at the time, denied she or Gallegos sold drugs. However she admitted to intravenously injecting heroin with her fiancé on a daily basis, and that they did so the morning Gallegos was shot.

The defendant, sporting a mustache and gelled-back, short black hair, wore eyeglasses and a gray suit. Duran whispered into his lawyer’s ear at least five times while Finnell testified.

“We were friends,” Finnell testified, regarding the couple’s relationship with Duran.

Finnell told the court she recently reviewed statements she made to the grand jury in 2004, and found errors in her testimony.

She explained Monday she spoke incorrectly in her previous testimony because she was “traumatized.”

When questioned by Mitchell, Finnell testified she saw Duran with a gun on New Year’s. Mitchell pointed out that in her grand jury testimony, she had said it was on the Fourth of July.

Mitchell clarified to the jurors that Duran was in jail on the Fourth of July.

Finnell told the jury she never saw Duran shoot Gallegos or take his money.

When questioned by Tatum, Finnell said she was in another room getting ready for bed when she heard Duran’s voice in the house, asking Gallegos for money.

She said she heard Duran say he’d kill Gallegos, then she heard a “click-click” sound and demonstrated pulling back the mechanism on a hand gun.

She said she crawled out a window and ran down to her mother’s trailer, which was nearby.

She said she tried to call 911 but was too scared. She then heard gunshots, after which she saw Duran’s truck drive away. While her mother called 911, she returned to their trailer. She found Gallegos lying face down in their kitchen. She flipped him over and got blood on her knees and hands.

Also taking the stand Monday for the prosecution was Robert Judd.

Judd testified he had been living at 1011 Sunrise for the last six years.

In his testimony Monday, he said he saw a “black or silver truck drive off” from the couple’s trailer after the sound of gunshots.

Judd pointed at Duran, identifying him as the person who left the trailer after he heard gunshots.

Judd said he saw Duran leave the trailer, go to his truck for a half a minute, return to the trailer for two to three minutes, return to his truck and drive off.

In Finnell’s testimony, she said Duran was wearing a white shirt and jeans. Judd testified that Duran was wearing a plaid shirt, blue jeans and maybe a cap.

In Duran’s defense, Mitchell said Judd’s statements are inconsistent. He said Judd gave police an account different from his court testimony Monday.

Consulting his notes, Mitchell cited a police report about the night of the shooting where Judd stated that he saw a gold truck drive away.

In response, Judd insisted the truck in question was “silver or black.”

The trial is set to resume at 8:30 a.m. today.