WASHINGTON (ABC4) – A man who was involved in the murder of a St. George teen in 2019 is expected to plead guilty to 2nd-degree manslaughter and 3rd-degree possession of a firearm by a restricted person in a court hearing on Tuesday.
Last week, Nicanor Vasquez-Mendoza, 34, was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for possession of Methamphetamine with intent to distribute, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, according to court documents,
Court documents indicate Vasquez-Mendoza, who was originally facing first-degree murder charges, is pleading guilty to the manslaughter and weapons charges as part of a plea deal.
In 2019, Vasquez-Mendoza was arrested and charged after allegedly shooting and killing an 18-year-old in St. George.
Police say Nicanor Vasquez-Mendoza of St. George shot the victim in the head near 300 North and 2700 East around 6 p.m. The victim was taken to a local hospital where he died from his injuries.
Vasquez-Mendoza was arrested and charged with murder, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, two counts of possession of a firearm by a restricted person, five counts of witness tampering, aggravated assault and possession of drug paraphernalia.
The second suspect and girlfriend of Vasquez-Mendoza, Silvia Lopez, was booked with five counts of witness tampering and one count of obstruction of justice/tampering with evidence. Her case seems to have stalled in the court process and no activity on her case has happened since last year.
An affidavit states that officers arrived on scene at the home of the suspects and observed Vasquez-Mendoza “rapidly” pulling away from the residence, who was stopped and told to go back. The 32-year-old then told officers the victim’s gunshot was self-inflicted, the report states.
“The officers observed what appeared to be a gunshot wound to the left temple of ****** head,” the report states.
A family member told police that the victim is right-handed. Investigators concluded that his injuries “lacked evidence that is usually observed when a gunshot is self-inflicted.”
Detectives determined the victim was laying down in the bedroom of the residence with six other friends when the shooting occurred, according to police.
While several of the friends told police they were looking at their phones when the shot rang out, another person told police that Vasquez-Mendoza was in the room with them while smoking methamphetamine and “talking about guns.”
The suspect then took out a handgun, pointed the gun at the ground and pressed the trigger, which did not initially fire. He then pointed the gun and it went off, shooting the victim in the head, according to the report.
One subject who was questioned told police that Lopez instructed those in the room to say they didn’t see anything because they were looking at their phones, the documents state.
ABC4 New’s spoke exclusively with Lopez’s mother, Maria Salazar, who said her daughter had “nothing to do with the murder” and was not in the room at the time. Salzar said her daughter got caught up with her methamphetamine-addicted boyfriend.
“He’s really bad in drugs,” Maria Salazar said. “Supposedly they were playing roulette or something, but I don’t think it was that.”
“I really with all my heart apologize to the parents of that little boy,” she added.
The plea deal indicates Vasquez-Mendoza would face 1-15 years at the Utah State Prison for the manslaughter charge and 0-5 years in prison for the weapons offense which will likely be imposed after he serves his federal time.