Murder trial goes to jury: Jury convinced of prosecution’s argument that killing wasn’t unintentional

A jury found a man guilty of murder after a three-day trial this week during which his defense attorneys said he killed another man, but should have faced a lesser charge.

Candelario Cruz-Trujillo, 38, was found guilty of murder after the jury deliberated for several hours on Thursday. Attorneys for the prosecution and defense had given closing statements on Thursday morning after testimony concluded on Wednesday.

He had been charged with murder after police said he shot and killed another man in a Greenwood restaurant parking lot. Police said Cruz-Trujillo shot and killed Miguel Herndandez, who was having an affair with his wife, on Sept. 30, 2015.

Jurors were asked to decide if Cruz-Trujillo was guilty of murder after prosecutors and defense attorneys had presented their cases.

He could face up to 65 years in prison. Sentencing is set for Nov. 7.

Judge Mark Loyd is presiding over the trial in Johnson County Circuit Court.

Prosecutors said Cruz-Trujillo went to the Four Seasons Restaurant off State Road 135, south of County Line Road, where Hernandez worked, with the intention of killing him.

“What happened in that parking lot was not a tragic series of unintended consequences. It was murder,” deputy prosecutor Joe Villanueva said in his closing statements.

Defense attorneys argued that Cruz-Trujillo never intended to kill Hernandez and wanted to instead scare him into leaving him alone. They told the jury that Hernandez had been threatening Cruz-Trujillo, and that he wanted to scare him with the gun, but he panicked when Hernandez reached for something in his vehicle, and he shot him.

Cruz-Trujillo was charged with murder but was guilty of a lesser crime, his defense attorney said. But since he was only charged with murder, and that charge was not proven, jurors needed to find him not guilty, defense attorney Mike Kyle said.

“They simply want a murder conviction. They’re not trying to put out the whole story,” Kyle said.

Prosecutors called eight witnesses and had multiple pieces of evidence, from the gun to nearby surveillance camera footage and Cruz-Trujillo’s bloody clothes from that day. The autopsy of Hernandez showed he was shot three times, with one shot to the back of his head and another severing his spine. Cruz-Trujillo shot Hernandez twice, knocking him to the ground, and then shot him once more in the back of the head, Villanueva said.

Cruz-Trujillo wasn’t scared of Hernandez and never called police when he said Hernandez threatened him, Villanueva said.

“He wasn’t scared. He was going to put an end to the problem,” Villanueva said.

Defense attorneys said Cruz-Trujillo didn’t know Hernandez was dead when he left the parking lot that day, and that the shots, including the one to the back of his head, hit Hernandez as he was falling, Kyle said.

They also criticized the police investigation, saying the detective didn’t interview Cruz-Trujillo’s children or patrons inside the restaurant. And they referred to early questioning of Cruz-Trujillo, where he told police he had shot Hernandez unintentionally.

“He did not intend to kill Miguel,” attorney Andrew Baldwin said.

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Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.