A jury will be asked to decide if the shooting death of a man in a Greenwood restaurant parking lot was murder or a lesser crime.
Candelario Cruz-Trujillo, 38, is on trial this week on a charge of murder. If convicted, he could face up to 65 years in prison.
Prosecutors said Cruz-Trujillo went to the Four Seasons Restaurant on State Road 135, just south of County Line Road, on Sept. 30, 2015, to shoot Miguel Hernandez, who was having an affair with Cruz-Trujillo’s wife. He shot him three times, and then left.
Cruz-Trujillo’s attorneys said he did shoot Hernandez but didn’t go to the restaurant with that intention, and therefore is not guilty of murder.
“Not every man that kills another man is guilty of murder,” attorney Andy Baldwin said.
Prosecutors planned to call eight witnesses to prove Cruz-Trujillo is guilty, showing evidence, including Cruz-Trujillo’s bloody clothes after the shooting, the testimony of Hernandez’s wife, who initially led police to Cruz-Trujillo after the shooting; and a police interview with Cruz-Trujillo after the shooting, where he told investigators that he shot Hernandez and why, deputy prosecutor Alex Hamner said in his opening statement.
“You are going to know in your mind and your heart that that man is a murderer and you are going to know it beyond a reasonable doubt,” Hamner said.
Attorneys for both sides gave opening arguments Tuesday morning, before the prosecution began presenting its case. Jurors were selected Monday. Judge Mark Loyd is presiding over the trial in Johnson County Circuit Court.
Prosecutors said Cruz-Trujillo went to the restaurant around 6 a.m. Sept. 30 and shot Hernandez three times, with bullets severing his spine, puncturing his lung, spleen and diaphragm and the back of his head. Hernandez, a father of four, was found dead in the parking lot by a co-worker. Police later tracked down Cruz-Trujillo at his wife’s Seymour home and arrested him.
In order to prove a murder charge, prosecutors must show Cruz-Trujillo knowingly and intentionally killed Hernandez, Hamner said. They plan to show that through evidence and testimony, including when Cruz-Trujillo bought a gun from a person selling it from the trunk of a vehicle two weeks before the murder, Hamner said.
Cruz-Trujillo’s attorneys said the facts of the case do not prove the charge of murder and instead will show Cruz-Trujillo is guilty of a lesser charge, Baldwin said. Baldwin also raised concerns about the police investigation, which only looked at this as a murder case from the start, he said.
Baldwin said that Cruz-Trujillo went to the restaurant that day to talk to Hernandez, who had been threatening him, Baldwin said. He had also tried to talk to Hernandez two times before that at Hernandez’s home, Baldwin said.
Cruz-Trujillo bought a gun to protect himself after he felt threatened by Hernandez and began to panic, Baldwin said.
The night before the shooting, Cruz-Trujillo had been drinking and decided to confront Hernandez at his work, so he could tell him to leave him alone, Baldwin said. He brought his gun so Hernandez would listen, he said.
Cruz-Trujillo confronted Hernandez in the parking lot, and Hernandez turned back to his car. Cruz-Trujillo saw Hernandez reaching for something and shot at him, and then left, Baldwin said.
But Cruz-Trujillo didn’t go there to kill Hernandez, Baldwin said.
“He killed a man, but the facts and circumstances and context will show you he’s not guilty of murder,” Baldwin said.