Las Vegas Sun

October 25, 2014

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Conviction returned in killing at party

A Guatemala native could receive a no-parole life sentence after being convicted Monday of shooting a countryman to death in Las Vegas last July.

Jurors found Elder Zacarias-Lopez, 25, guilty of first-degree murder with use of a deadly weapon after deliberating three hours over two days, Chief Deputy District Attorney Robert Daskas said.

The jury was to return to District Judge Kathy Hardcastle's courtroom this afternoon to determine if Lopez should receive a life sentence with or without the possibility of parole.

Daskas said a large group of Guatemalan day-laborers were gathered at Lopez's home near Charleston Boulevard and Sloan Lane when shots rang out on July 8.

When everyone ran out from playing cards in the back yard, they found Moris Almendarez-Morataya, 27, dead from four gunshot wounds in the head and a fifth in his hip, Daskas said.

Four boys -- Aaron Ngonvongsa, 13, Christian Ngonvongsa, 10, Dustin Digiulio, 8, and Sean Giron, 12 -- testified they thought the shots were fireworks at first, Daskas said. They then saw Lopez flee from the scene in his vehicle.

Police pulled Lopez over after seeing him toss a gun, Daskas said. He had the victim's blood on his pants and tests showed he had gunpowder from the gun on his hands.

Deputy Public Defender Bita Khamsi told jurors last week that police jumped to the wrong conclusion when they found the blood and gunpowder on her client.

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