Joe Arpaio's Most Recent Cockfighting Raid Complicates a Phoenix Murder Investigation
On Saturday night, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office raided a Phoenix cockfight, arresting 40 people -- 17 of them alleged to be illegal immigrants.
One of those alleged illegal immigrants, 43-year-old Pedro Reyes-Lopez, was identified as the owner of the house, which earned him a big mugshot in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's press release, saying he's "facing various felony charges."
Reyes-Lopez was hit with another felony charge on Tuesday -- first-degree murder, stemming from the 2010 shooting death of his estranged wife's boyfriend, which is being investigated by the Phoenix Police Department.
Phoenix police Sergeant Trent Crump tells New Times the simple answer for why Reyes-Lopez was charged with first-degree murder this week: "Because we have probable cause that he committed murder."
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But it's a little more complicated than that.
Reyes-Lopez was identified as the shooter by a witness who came forward to police in April 2011, saying Reyes-Lopez had confessed to murdering Jose Gutierrez-Reyes over a "large load of drugs," according to court documents obtained by New Times.
Crump says Reyes-Lopez was the lead suspect in the investigation, and detectives were still in the process of collecting information and gathering evidence to use against him when he was arrested by the sheriff's office this weekend and hit with completely unrelated charges.
Plainly, Crump says, "[Detectives] were still working on the case when he was incarcerated."
Due to Reyes-Lopez' immigration status, there's a pretty realistic probability he'd be deported due to the cockfighting arrest, allowing him to get a ride away from the murder charge had it not been tacked on this week.
Phoenix homicide detectives have been investigating the case since they got the call on September 4, 2010, about a shooting near 43rd and Grand avenues.
A woman told police she was stopped at a red light on 43rd Avenue, with two pickup trucks side-by-side in front of her.
She said she saw a man hang out of one truck, fire at Gutierrez-Reyes -- who was driving the other truck -- and the truck driving the shooter left the scene while Gutierrez-Reyes' truck crashed into a building. He was pronounced dead at the scene, and his cause of death was determined to be a single gunshot wound to the head.
Just over seven months later, a witness came forward to police.
"[Reyes-Lopez] told the witness that [Gutierrez-Reyes] had robbed him of a large load of drugs, and that his superiors had ordered him to send the victim to Mexico alive," court documents state. "He told the witness that he instead decided to kill the victim, and save him the pain of being tortured."
The witness told police this conversation took place the night of the shooting, as Reyes-Lopez said he and an accomplice named "Loco" had been following Gutierrez-Reyes since 4 a.m. that day.
The witness said Reyes-Lopez went on to describe the shooting to him, and described how Gutierrez-Reyes was now in a relationship with Reyes-Lopez' estranged wife.
According to court documents, this conversation was also heard by three other people.
When Phoenix police detectives interviewed him this week after the cockfighting arrest, Reyes-Lopez denied everything about the witness' story, but later admitted a few details about his relationship with his estranged wife and buying ammunition.
Reyes-Lopez still maintained he had no involvement in Gutierrez-Reyes' murder, and was arrested on the first-degree murder charge Tuesday, while he was still in custody.
"We have to go with what we have now," Crump says, adding that detectives still wanted to gather more information in the case.
Still, Crump maintains detectives have probable cause, the Maricopa County Attorney's office was "comfortable" with the first-degree murder charge, and says the arrest by the sheriff's office didn't hinder the investigation.
"It didn't jeopardize it in any way," Crump says.
He did concede it's possible that the charge could end up as second-degree murder or manslaughter, but said that's a "reality" of these types of investigations, and there's no way to tell if more time would've yielded better results.
"It's hard to say," Crump says. "We'll never get that opportunity to know."
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