D.A.: Suspect in El Jebel slayings might have tried to kill others
EAGLE — Williams Anderson Amaya might have intended to kill more people than just his aunt and uncle Saturday night in a home in El Jebel, the 5th Judicial District Attorney said in court Monday.
Authorities said Amaya purchased a .380-caliber handgun from a Grand Junction retailer on the same day he killed Mayra Lorena Lopez, 40, and her husband, Eliseo Lopez, 42. The gunfire erupted after Amaya argued with Mrs. Lopez about the family dog, according to an affidavit in support of an arrest warrant for Amaya.
Seven people other than Amaya were in the house in the Sopris Village subdivision at the time of the slaying, according to the affidavit and an official with the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office. In addition to the Lopezes, their two sons, ages 14 and 13, were at the home, as well as Amaya’s brother Herbert Amaya and his wife and daughter, according to Jessie Mosher, public information officer for the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.
One of the Lopez boys and Herbert Amaya’s family got out of the house from a bedroom after the gunshots. The other Lopez boy apparently stayed in the house during the argument, according to the affidavit.
Amaya, 33, made his first court appearance Monday morning after he was arrested early Sunday and booked on two first-degree murder charges. Amaya also will likely face attempted murder charges, District Attorney Bruce Brown said, because he planned to kill other people in the house.
“Other occupants appeared to be targeted during this event,” Brown said outside the courtroom. “It appears that similar means used against the victims were contemplated to be used against others. Some of the forensic evidence indicated that.”
UPSET ABOUT FAMILY DOG
The arrest warrant affidavit indicates that Amaya became agitated with the Lopezes and started arguing sometime around 11 p.m. Saturday in the home. The 13-year-old son of the Lopezes told detectives he was in his room preparing for bed when he heard Amaya yelling about the family dog. The boy said he heard a gunshot and heard Mrs. Lopez yell for help, then there was another gunshot and she screamed in pain, the affidavit said.
Herbert Amaya, 31, the brother of Williams, was in his bedroom with his family when he was awakened by gunfire, according to the affidavit. Herbert told detectives he got out of bed and walked down a hallway and saw Mrs. Lopez moving. Mr. Lopez was just beyond her with blood around his head, the affidavit said.
The Lopezes’ other son, a 14-year-old, came running to Herbert and told him “to get his family and get out of the house,” according to the affidavit. Once they exited, the son called 911, according to authorities.
“This incident had the potential to be an escalated situation,” Mosher said.
The affidavit by Eagle County Sheriff’s Office Detective Aaron Veldheer said that investigators confirmed that the Lopezes were dead and secured the home while a search warrant was sought. Officials also secured the arrest warrant.
Investigators contacted Williams Amaya’s cell phone provider and were able to trace him to his place of employment in Garfield County. They surrounded the building and he gave up without incident at 5:40 a.m. Sunday. Deputies said they recovered the handgun from Amaya’s car.
Williams Amaya had rented a room in his aunt and uncle’s house for about six months, the affidavit said. Herbert Amaya and his family had rented a bedroom in the house for about three years, according to the affidavit.
The sons are in the care of relatives.
The dog survived the incident, according to Mosher. It was taken into custody and was scheduled to be returned to the family on Monday, she said.
AMAYA REPRESENTED BY PUBLIC DEFENDER
Dressed in orange jail clothes, Amaya rocked back and forth in his swivel chair during Monday’s court appearance. His brown eyes were wide as he looked around the courtroom from his seat at the defendant’s table.
His attorney, Reed Owens with the public defender’s office, sat beside him. Owens defended Rossi Moreau in one of Eagle County’s most recent homicide cases.
Brown and assistant district attorneys Joe Kirwan and Courtney Gilbert will prosecute the case.
In the courtroom, Amaya’s hands were cuffed in front of him, clasped to a thick leather belt around his waist. His feet were shackled with a 2-foot chrome chain. A court-appointed interpreter explained to Amaya in Spanish what was happening.
Amaya’s charges are expected to be made official by July 25. He is scheduled to be back in court July 28 at 9:30 a.m.
In the meantime, District Court Judge Russell Granger ordered Amaya held without bail because he is considered a flight risk.
“He fled the scene immediately after the crimes were committed,” Brown said. He also has made several trips out of state in the past, the DA said.
Amaya is a resident alien, in the country legally from El Salvador. He reportedly graduated from Aspen High School.
Amaya had worked at Colorado Pool and Spa Scapes, which is along Highway 82 between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale, for seven years.
Paula Busk, chief financial officer for the company, where Amaya was a service technician, described him Monday to the Post Independent as a “very conscientious,” “good employee.”
Amaya’s job cleaning and balancing water chemistry in the field required criminal and driving records checks, neither of which turned up anything, Busk said. Although he didn’t work out of the office much, everyone at the company knew him.
“We’re all shocked and surprised,” Busk said. “Our hearts go out to the family.”
Amaya is eligible for the death penalty.
It will be “weeks, if not months” before prosecutors decide whether to seek the death penalty, Brown said.
Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis said autopsies on Tuesday will determine if the Lopezes were victims of single or multiple gunshots.
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