A Mexican immigrant accused of shooting a man to death outside the victim’s apartment has been acquitted on murder charges, but was found guilty on lesser felony counts.
The defendant, Gregorio Arenas, 29, was found guilty on charges of aggravated assault, coercion of witnesses, and reckless endangerment.
The top charge of aggravated assault carries three to six years in prison. He was acquitted on the charge of first-degree murder, a crime for which he would have been sentenced to life in prison if convicted. Instead Arenas could be eligible for release on time served given the fact he has already served over one year while awaiting trial for the murder that happened July 20, 2012. He will appear before Circuit Court Judge Bart Stanley on Sept. 11 for a bond hearing while he awaits sentencing.
Arenas took the stand on his own behalf Thursday as the three-day trial came to a close, speaking through an interpreter.
Arenas said during his testimony the murder of Albertano Guerro Trejo was the result of a misunderstanding over a $20 hooker, the accused killer saying he was playing peacemaker when the gun went off.
“I got between them and tried to separate them,” claimed Gregorio Arenas during his time on the witness stand Thursday afternoon.
Arenas said his friend, known only as El Pollo (The Chicken), had taken a prostitute to the Cotten Apartment residence where the victim and others lived. Arenas said one of the men at the apartment “came out of the darkness” and took the hooker from him, prompting an altercation.
It was during that time Arenas said Trejo and El Pollo were outside in front of the apartment and El Pollo pulled a gun. He then pistol whipped and shot the victim in the chest, the single gunshot proving fatal.
An eyewitness testified earlier that he saw Arenas pull the trigger. However, the state’s star witness had first claimed to police he saw nothing before changing his story the next day. He claimed he lied to lawmen initially because Arenas had threatened to come back and kill him if he told anyone what happened.
Arenas claimed the state’s star witness, Raffael Medlin, was inside cooking and couldn’t have seen what was going on outside the apartment where the shooting happened.
Arenas said he took the gun from El Pollo after the shooting and walked inside with the gun still in his hand. He said Pollo told him to warn those inside not to tell about what had happened. However, Arenas said he did not threaten the men.
“I don’t like violence,” Arenas said through his interpreter. “I’m a Christian.”
Arenas claimed he was afraid to turn in El Pollo after he fled, even though he had possession of the gun.
“It’s difficult when you have a murderer with you who also wants to murder you,” Arenas testified, his claim not going over well with District Attorney General Lisa Zavogiannis, who pointed to holes in his story.
She pointed out that, at some point, Arenas called a friend and told him he had killed someone and was going away. He then asked the man to take care of his wife and child. Zavogiannis also pointed out Arenas was found hiding inside a home in Fairview and questioned why an innocent man would run from the law instead of coming forward.
Given Arenas questionable immigration status in the country he will be turned over to immigration following sentencing for possible deportation back to his native Mexico.