The Justice Files: A deacon’s murder

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – It was a murder that shocked a Utah community.

It was September 2005 when Aniceto Armendariz and his wife were heading home to Heber City.

As they approached the Jordanelle Reservoir, someone drove up next to them and opened fire. Armendariz was shot in the neck and died.  The bullets barely missed his wife.

“I haven’t forgotten that moment,” said his wife in 2007.  “I  have the moment in my head every day.”

Her name and family members are no longer being identified by ABC4.

At the time, Armendariz was an ordained catholic deacon at the St. Lawrence church in Heber City.  Armendariz also served as an outreach worker for immigrant families in Wasatch and Summit counties.

Authorities soon arrested 20-year old Cunny Pelaez and his father Antonio Pelaez-Vasquez.   The young man was identified as the shooter while his father drove the vehicle.  Both were charged with Armendariz’s murder. The 20-year old once took driving lessons from Armendariz driving school.

“The thing that hurts me the most was Cunny used to call my husband master, “el maestro,” said the widow in 2007.  “Every time he addressed (Armendariz) he used to say “maestro.”

Prosecutors claimed Armendariz’s killers were hit men for someone inside the prison.

“There are certain people that didn’t want Mr. Armendariz continue cooperating the way he was,” said Thomas Low, the Wasatch County attorney in 2007.  “Not that he was providing any specific information.”

Thirteen years after he was sent to prison, Antonio Peleaz-Vasquez is eligible for parole.

“My father was a hard-working man,” said the victim’s son.  “Both he and my mother worked hard for my family.”

The deacon’s son and daughter also attended the parole hearing which was held via a video conference. Peleaz-Vasquez was physically at the parole hearing and used a translator to understand what was being said. Through that translator, he learned the family still wants to know why their father was murdered.

“As of today, I still don’t fully understand or know the motive for the murder,” said the victim’s son.  “I was only 17-years old and I do not know if my father did something to these gentlemen personally.”

Wednesday night, in part 2 of a deacon’s murder, Peleaz-Vasquez provides an answer.

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