Ruling expected today in Grand Junction murder case
GRAND JUNCTION – If nothing else, Christopher Wieberg is a man of his word.”I am cn shooting tumos.”Tumos, investigators believe, was 28-year-old Thomas Martinez, and that text message was sent from Wieberg’s phone early on Oct. 25, 2005.Less than 10 minutes later two women watched Wieberg make good on those plans.Cellular phone records obtained by investigators confirm Wieberg sent his text message shortly before Martinez was shot once in the head at close range inside an apartment at 559 Garfield Drive, according to prosecution witnesses.A preliminary hearing stretched over several hours Friday for Wieberg, 21, and Barrington Paris, 28, who both face identical charges in Martinez’ slaying – first-degree murder after deliberation, felony murder and three counts of attempted aggravated robbery.Judge Brian Flynn today is expected to rule if probable cause exists for the duo to stand trial on the five counts. Wieberg or Paris may enter pleas and a jury trial could also be scheduled.During preliminary hearings, Colorado law says the judge must weigh evidence in favor of the prosecution. Hearsay evidence is allowed at this stage but not at trial.District Attorney Pete Hauztinger’s case Friday was centered around statements from two women, Tasha Englehart and Stasia KiIlinger. They claim Wieberg and Paris showed up at the apartment, Wieberg brandished a handgun asking Martinez, “Where’s my money, bitch?” and shot Martinez once in the head.The women said they initially lied about what they saw. They first identified the shooter as a Hispanic man wearing black whom they didn’t know. The pair claimed they had been on a multi-day meth binge leading up to Oct. 25. Their story about the shooting didn’t change until Oct. 31 after Wieberg and Pairs were arrested after a six-day manhunt by local law enforcement.Englehart said they were “more worried about the drugs” present at the apartment than anything else, while the women were warned not to cooperate with investigators in a meeting with Paris the day after the shooting, according to testimony.Paris allegedly said, “Anyone who talks will get hurt,” Mesa County Sheriff’s investigator Henry Stoffel testified.After the shooting, Wieberg, went to the home of a friend, Mohammed Suleiman, who thought Wieberg may have burned his clothes in his back yard. Wieberg told him the shooting was an accident, “but it felt good,” Stoffel said.The informantFor now, he or she is known only as “CT01.”The informant, who reportedly works with an officer with the Western Colorado Drug Task Force, was also a key element of Hautzinger’s case on Friday despite repeated objections from defense attorneys.The prosecution at some point may be forced to identify the mystery witness.”We don’t even know where this hearsay is coming from,” Leslie Castro, Wieberg’s attorney, told the judge.Stoffel said the informant had planned a meeting with Wieberg early Oct. 25 for a deal to sell speakers. They met in the parking lot of a bowling alley in the 1800 block of Main Street. Wieberg was driving a maroon-colored car and had a handgun tucked away in a shoulder holster.Paris was in the passenger’s seat putting on gloves “as if preparing for some kind of fight.” A girl was in the back “very high” and not part of the conversation.Wieberg, according to the informant, said he was going to collect a $600 drug debt and was prepared to “bust some knee caps or shoot him.”During the conversation, Wieberg reportedly took a phone call that was aired on a speaker phone. Englehart told him to hurry because she didn’t know how long she could keep Martinez at the apartment.Stoffel and Hautzinger said the informant has worked with the task force for two years and has never provided bad information. The defense repeatedly questioned the informant’s motives – suggesting the unnamed accuser may have been using meth or buying drugs from Wieberg in that early Oct. 25 meeting.”He’s going to buy speakers at 8:30 in the morning at a bowling alley from a known drug dealer?” Paris’ attorney Colleen Scissors asked the judge.Contact Paul Shockley: firstname.lastname@example.org
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