Jul 16, 2015

Third suspect’s case moves forward in Badger Basin murder

As direct evidence that John Marquez shot and dismembered another man last year, investigators have the statements of an alleged co-conspirator and what might be Marquez’s DNA on a pair of gloves found near the man’s body.

“That’s it?” Marquez’s court-appointed defense attorney, Mitchell Damsky of Gillette, asked during a July 8 preliminary hearing in Park County’s Circuit Court.

John Marquez at an earlier appearance. Cody News Co. photo by CJ Baker
Despite the questioning — in which he pointed out the evidence that authorities do not have — Damsky effectively conceded that prosecutors had met the low threshold needed to move the case forward to District Court and toward a trial.

Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters agreed.

The judge’s ruling means the charges against all three defendants in the January 2014 murder of Juan Antonio Guerra-Torres — Marquez, 51, Pedro Garcia, 28, and Sandra Garcia, 27 — are now at the the District Court level.

Sandra Garcia, who was Guerra-Torres’ long-time girlfriend, is alleged to have called for his killing; her brother, Pedro Garcia, then allegedly hired Marquez to kill Guerra-Torres.

The allegations are largely based on statements from Pedro Garcia.

His account, as described by Park County Sheriff’s Investigator Joe Torczon last week, goes like this:
Sandra Garcia asked Pedro Garcia in late 2013 and early 2014 to help “take out” the 30-year-old Guerra-Torres. She allegedly told her brother that Guerra-Torres had become deeply indebted to “dangerous” Mexican drug dealers who “were going to come after the whole family and kill them,” Torczon said.

Pedro Garcia
“He (Pedro Garcia) didn’t know if his family was also going to be involved” and he ultimately agreed to ask Marquez to kill Guerra-Torres, the investigator testified.

With the Garcia siblings standing by, Marquez fatally shot Guerra-Torres in a pullout along Wyo. Highway 120 between Powell and Clark, Torczon said of Pedro Garcia’s account.

Pedro Garcia had once told authorities that Sandra Garcia — who’d driven Guerra-Torres to the pullout — immediately left the scene after the killing. However, Torczon said Pedro Garcia has since described walking over to his sister’s car and telling her, “Everything’s better now.”

Pedro Garcia and Marquez took Guerra-Torres’ body up a nearby BLM road, where Marquez mutilated the body with what looked like an ax, Pedro Garcia reportedly told Torczon.

When the body was found on Jan. 9, 2014, it was missing its head, left arm and right hand.

“Everything’s better now,” Pedro Garcia reportedly told Sandra Garcia after the murder.

A pair of mechanic’s gloves were found near the corpse. Guerra-Torres’ blood was found on the items, as well as someone else’s DNA, Torczon said. Preliminary testing has shown the DNA is not Pedro Garcia’s, but “at this time we cannot exclude” it as belonging to Marquez, Torczon said.

Authorities hope more advanced testing will show whether it is actually Marquez’s biological material.

Torczon said statements from Marquez’s family and his then-employer indicate he was in Powell and with Pedro Garcia — a long-time family friend — around the time of the murder.

“He (Marquez) was actually supposed to pick up one of his grandchildren on Jan. 6 (2014) and he didn’t do it,” Torczon said, saying Marquez explained to a family member that he “had to help Pedro (Garcia) put a heater in his truck” that day.

Sandra Garcia
Authorities believe the murder occurred Jan. 5, 2014.

Marquez declined to speak with authorities when arrested in March. In a May court appearance, however, he said it was “ludicrous” and “crazy” that he’d been arrested on the allegations from Pedro Garcia, whom he called a “meth-head.”

Sandra Garcia, meanwhile, told authorities she last saw Guerra-Torres on Jan. 5, when she dropped him off near the Cody Shooting Complex, Torczon said.

Sandra Garcia said Guerra-Torres planned to meet a man known as “Crocodile,” a representative of a drug dealer named “Don Cheto,” who Guerra-Torres owed $30,000 to $40,000, Torczon said.

“The family had been receiving threats and Juan Antonio Guerra-Torres told her that he needed to go and take care of this,” Torczon said of Sandra Garcia’s account.

Torczon said authorities believe Guerra-Torres was trafficking a significant amount of methamphetamine from California, but their efforts have found no sign of a “Crocodile” or a “Don Cheto.”

Authorities know of a “Crocodile” in the Los Angeles area, “but we couldn’t say that he was ever in Park County, Wyoming,” Torczon said. As for the supposed leader, Don Cheto, “the only Don Cheto that anybody knows about has been a funny guy on Mexican television,” Torczon said.

Sandra Garcia told authorities that Juan Antonio Guerra-Torres had become indebted to someone named Don Cheto, but “the only Don Cheto that anybody knows about has been a funny guy on Mexican television,” investigator Joe Torczon said.

Sandra Garcia gave her account to authorities in May 2014, after Guerra-Torres’ body was identified.

She declined to speak with Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation agents when arrested in March — though she did make the statement that “they (the agents) didn’t have to live with the cartel,” Torczon said.

Sandra Garcia and Pedro Garcia have each denied felony charges of aiding and abetting first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. Trials are tentatively set for October, though those dates are likely to be pushed back.

Marquez will soon enter his plea in District Court to felony charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.

The three defendants continue to be held in the Park County Detention Center.

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