CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Defendants Demetrio Salas, left, and David Griego, center, listen to testimony along with Griego’s defense attorney Roger Bargas Wednesday at Roosevelt County Courthouse.
By Karl Terry: Freedom New Mexico
PORTALES — Ruben Perez described to a Roosevelt County jury how he held his little brother and tried to stop the blood from a gunshot wound to the 10-year-old’s head while waiting for ambulance crews to arrive.
Carlos Perez died later that day at a Lubbock hospital.
Ruben Perez, 19, testified Wednesday about what happened in the early morning hours of Sept. 15, 2005, and events the previous day leading up to the shooting.
He was the opening witness in the first-degree murder trial of Demetrio Salas, 21, and David Griego, 31.
His testimony drew the most emotion as family members and jurors began reaching for tissues when he was asked if his brother was able to talk to him. His answer was no.
“I was holding him until the ambulance got there, trying to stop the bleeding,” Ruben Perez said.
Police have said they believe the elder Perez was the intended target in the shooting.
Ruben Perez also testified about a confrontation he had with Demetrio Salas’ younger brother, Orlando Salas, at Clovis High School the day before the shooting. He said Orlando Salas pulled a knife on him but told him it was actually his brother, Demetrio Salas, who wanted to fight him.
Aracela Perez testified she saw someone in the yard with a gun immediately after shots were fired through the window where her brothers Ruben and Carlos were sleeping in the same bed.
“I looked out the window and saw a guy wearing black, holding a gun in his right hand, jogging through the alley,” she testified.
She told the jury that it was too dark to clearly identify the features of the person she saw or to describe the type of clothing.
Testimony after lunch featured Melissa Sanchez, 18, who was on the witness stand for most of the afternoon. She told jurors that she had pleaded no contest to the charge of solicitation of murder in exchange for her testimony. She is serving a two-year commitment to the Children Youth and Families Department.
She testified she knew Demetrio Salas and Ruben Perez casually.
She testified that while talking to Demetrio and Orlando Salas in her sister’s yard the morning of the shooting, Demetrio Salas produced a gun she identified as a .22 caliber revolver.
Soon after she left with the Salas brothers in a blue and white Chevrolet Suburban. They stopped and picked up Griego and made a stop to talk to two other people at a trailer park. She did not identify the people at the trailer park.
She said she pointed out the Perez’ apartment as they drove through the alley behind the apartment complex. She said she and Orlando Salas were then dropped off at the home of an acquaintance. She testified that Demetrio Salas said, “We have to do some business … we’ve got to go on a mission.”
She testified Demetrio Salas and Griego returned a short time later “on an adrenaline rush.”
She testified she heard Demetrio Salas say, “I just went and blasted nine rounds at that sewer rat’s house.”
Sanchez told jurors she was threatened several times by Demetrio Salas not to say anything, including one gesture through a window at the police station.
“I was scared of what might happen and Demetrio had already threatened me twice,” she said when asked why her story changed in each of four police interviews. “I was worried I might be charged as an accessory.”
She told jurors she didn’t lie, but left some things out in earlier police interviews.
Orlando Salas, 16, pleaded guilty in March 2006 to his role in the killing and was sentenced as a juvenile. He will be eligible for parole at age 21.
The trial resumes today and is expected to last two weeks.
In opening statements, Griego’s defense attorney Roger Bargas said Sanchez’ testimony would show his client never said a word to her other than asking for a cigarette and that he didn’t seem to be involved.
“The defense for Demetrio Salas is simple and straight-forward,” said his attorney, Gary Mitchell, during opening statements. “He wasn’t present, he didn’t do the shooting, he didn’t plan the shooting.”
Connection to case: Brother of victim; intended target of the shooting, according to police.
Testimony: He and brother Carlos were asleep in the same bed when he was awakened by shots fired through the window. He first thought they were BB gun shots.
Without trying to wake his brother, he woke his mom and then went outside to investigate who had done the shooting. He returned when he heard his mother scream after she had found Carlos in bed bleeding from a gunshot wound to the head.
Cross examination: He said there were no lights in the yard on the side of the apartment where shooting occurred.
He said he saw a person outside near a fence that he later learned was a neighbor investigating the noise.
He did not see Demetrio Salas, David Griego or any vehicles outside his residence that night.
Admitted that the confrontation had nothing to do with Demetrio Salas or Griego and instead was between Perez’ younger cousin and Orlando Salas.
He said Melissa Sanchez had been to the apartment complex a few times but had never been inside the Perez apartment.
Connection to case: Sister of victim, in the apartment at the time of the shooting
Testimony: She said she saw someone wearing black holding a gun in their right hand and jogging down the alley right after she heard noises made by gunfire. She said the person was by a tree in the yard when she first looked. She said she wasn’t able to identify the person.
Cross examination: She said there was a porchlight near a stairwell on that side of the apartment but said she didn’t know of other outside lights in the area. The defense asked her if there was a street light nearby and if it was on. She said she knew of a light but didn’t know if it was on. A photo was submitted showing the girl’s bedroom window and a streetlight in the background.
Connection to case: Neighbor of the Perez family
Testimony: Heard a honk and saw, through a window, an older-model Chevrolet Suburban drive by slowly. Later she saw the same vehicle parked or going very slowly under a streetlight in front of her apartment with someone dressed in a black hat and dark shirt hanging out of an open passenger-side door. She also testified that she heard noises that sounded like rapping on a window just after seeing the vehicle the second time.
She also said her boyfriend went out to investigate the noise.
Cross examination: Admitted she couldn’t tell how many occupants were in the vehicle or identify anyone specifically.
She said she didn’t know if the individual hanging out the door was getting in or out of the vehicle. She also said the headlights were on while she was watching but the inside dome lights were not.
Connection to case: Friend of Demetrio Salas and Ruben Perez, testifying under a plea agreement in the case
Testimony: She knew about the fight planned between Demetrio Salas and Ruben Perez. Demetrio showed her a weapon prior to the shooting, which she identified as a “deuce-deuce” .22 caliber revolver. Said she left with Demetrio and Orlando Salas to get dog food but ended up identifying the Perez home for them.
She said she had been threatened several times by Demetrio Salas to keep quiet and she feared for her and her family’s safety.
When Demetrio Salas dropped her and Orlando Salas off at Eric Gutierrez’ house he told her he and Griego had to do some business. When she asked why she couldn’t go, she said he replied that they were going on a mission. When they got back, she said Demetrio Salas said he had “blasted nine rounds at that sewer rat’s (Perez) house. She said a short time later they heard an ambulance call on the police scanner that talked about an 11-year-old boy as a shooting victim.
Cross examination: Was asked if she hired somebody in the case or if she encouraged others in the case she answered no to both questions. She said what she admitted to was pointing out the house.
She said she didn’t solicit Griego to commit murder and didn’t remember Griego saying anything about the shooting before or after he and Demetrio Salas returned.
Relation to case: Former jailer at Curry County Detention Center
Testimony: Filed a report after hearing two conversations Demetrio Salas had at the jail after his arrest. In one conversation, he said he didn’t do it. In the other the person on the other end of the line was told to “zip it and don’t say nothing about this.”
Cross examination: None