GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Evidence is sufficient to take the first-degree murder case against El Jebel resident Fredy Cabrera to trial, 9th District Judge Denise Lynch ruled following six hours of testimony at a preliminary hearing on Monday.
Key to the ruling were statements from several witnesses in the case, including one of the victims, Cabrera’s 18-year-old stepdaughter, Leydy Trejo. Several investigators with the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office who are likely to testify at trial also took the witness stand at the hearing.
Cabrera, 40, stands accused of premeditated first-degree murder in the shooting death of Douglas Menjivar, 21, shortly after 11 p.m. on July 31, 2013, outside the apartment on County Road 154 south of Glenwood Springs where Trejo, still a high school student, had just moved in with Menjivar.
Trejo was also seriously injured in the incident when one of the bullets struck her lower right leg, shattering her tibia. Cabrera faces an additional charge of first-degree assault as a result of her injuries.
Menjivar was shot multiple times and died a short time later at Valley View Hospital, while Cabrera initially fled the scene but turned himself over to authorities in neighboring Mesa County the following day.
Trejo began the day’s proceedings Monday telling the court how her relationship and decision to move in with Menjivar did not sit well with Cabrera, whom she said was protective of her and her step-siblings.
“He was a father who wanted the best for us,” Trejo said, adding he wanted to see them finish high school and be successful.
That’s why he became upset when Trejo started dating Menjivar, who had worked for Cabrera at one of his two El Horizonte restaurants in Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, and had recently been made a partner in the family-owned Compucopys business.
When she began sneaking out at night to be with Menjivar, and when her school grades started suffering, Cabrera sought intervention, even setting up a mediation with the family’s pastor, Trejo said under questioning by one of Cabrera’s two defense attorneys, Colleen Scissors.
Scissors and Kathy Goudy, who is also representing Cabrera, tried to show that, while there’s little question Cabrera was the one who shot Menjivar, there is not enough evidence to suggest Cabrera planned ahead of time to kill him.
“There’s no indication of what Mr. Cabrera’s motive was going out to that apartment on night of the murder,” Scissors argued during the preliminary hearing.
“There is also no clear evidence that he told somebody else that he was going to go out and shoot somebody,” she said of statements reportedly made to investigators after the shooting by Trejo and others that Cabrera would kill her and Menjivar if he caught them together.
“This is not first-degree, but second-degree murder,” Scissors contended.
However, Assistant 9th District Attorney Scott Turner said there is plenty of evidence to support the charge of first-degree murder.
“This is not a ‘who-done-it’ case,” Turner said in his closing argument before Judge Lynch, noting that Trejo, when pressed on the witness stand Monday, admitted she knew at the time of the shooting that it was her father who was the perpetrator.
“And there is more than probable cause to show he had threatened to kill [Menjivar] weeks prior to the incident, and that he went to the apartment and laid in wait” until Menjivar and Trejo arrived home that night, intending to shoot Menjivar, Turner said.
Lynch set the next hearing in the case for April 3, when Cabrera could either enter a plea or a trial date will be set. Turner said he anticipates three weeks will be needed for a trial.
District Attorney Sherry Caloia said afterwards that she was pleased with the judge’s decision to uphold the first-degree murder charges.
“I expected this outcome, and I hope we can move to a trial quickly since it has already taken us six months to get to preliminary hearing,” Caloia said.
The case bogged down early on when some evidence was slow to come back from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
Cabrera also initially qualified to be represented by the public defender, which the district attorney had objected to based on his ownership of three businesses and other assets. However, he later decided to hire his own private attorneys.
In another matter Monday, the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office declined a request by Cabrera’s attorneys to provide a security transport Monday evening so that Cabrera could attend the local memorial service for his father, Jose Argueta, who passed away last week.
Scissors said the family was willing to pay for the escort. Judge Lynch also denied the alternative of hiring a private security company to provide the escort, or to grant a temporary furlough.
Cabrera remains in the Garfield County Jail without bond while he awaits trial.