Man guilty in slaying, day of mayhem in Grand Junction
A reputed California gang member involved in an extraordinary one-day crime wave in Grand Junction in 2011, including the murder of a bystander outside North Avenue’s Taco Bell, faces anywhere from 25 to 72 years in prison after pleading guilty to six felonies on Friday.
Christian Fuentes, 21, of East Palo Alto, Calif., pleaded guilty before District Judge Thomas Deister to charges including second-degree murder, two counts of robbery, two counts of menacing and second-degree burglary, all related to events on July 16, 2011, that ended with the late-night shooting of 31-year-old Jorge Carrasco, a respected Grand Junction mixed-martial-arts fighter.
Fuentes’ sentence will be decided by Deister on May 28.
Fuentes pleaded guilty as a complicitor, meaning he admitted to being present or assisting during the armed robberies of Teller Arms Liquor, 2353 Belford Ave., and Cash Advance America, 2502 U.S. Highway 6&50, and the burglary of a home in the 2600 block of Chestnut Drive. Guns were stolen from the home which were used to gun down Carrasco, capping a 14-hour crime wave spurred by gang interests.
Lester Miranda-Davis, 20, of Clifton, was sentenced to 24 years in prison for what authorities characterized as minimal involvement. Miranda-Davis rented a U-haul van toward completing the home burglary and drove the other three suspects, including Fuentes, to the Taco Bell.
Prosecutors have alleged the slaying — Carrasco wasn’t believed to have been the intended target of the shooting — stemmed from a need for gang members to complete a “trophy killing,” according to court records.
Fuentes and fellow East Palo Alto, Calif., residents 21-year-old Jaime Cardenas and 25-year-old Fidel Silva were known members of the Norteno gang of northern California, according to the East Palo Alto Police Department.
Fuentes, Cardenas and Silva drove to Grand Junction on the run from suspected involvement in a murder days earlier in East Palo Alto, according to court records. Fuentes contacted Miranda-Davis for assistance, rekindling a brief prior friendship.
Attorneys in the case have said it was Fuentes, while driving around Grand Junction with Miranda-Davis, who randomly targeted a man for killing outside Taco Bell. Silva and Cardenas, accompanied by Fuentes and Miranda-Davis, drove to the restaurant.
District Judge Brian Flynn described the shooting this way in a sentencing order:
“As Silva and Cardenas jumped out of the car and Miranda-Davis could see that they were headed toward the Taco Bell, Miranda-Davis turned to Fuentes and asked, “Are they really going to shoot them?” Fuentes smirked and responded by saying, ‘Listen. Who do you think you’re hanging with?”
Cardenas and Silva remain at-large and are still on the Grand Junction Police Department’s 10 Most Wanted list.