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Jury deliberates in Luxor bombing trial

Two men could face death penalty if convicted

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Justin M. Bowen

Clark Partick defends his client, Porfirio Duarte-Hererra, during closing statements Thursday in front of District Court Judge Michael Villani. Duarte-Hererra and Omar Rueda-Denvers are charged with placing a bomb in a coffee cup and putting it on the truck of Willebaldo Dorantes Antonio, which killed him when it exploded on May 7, 2007.

Updated Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009 | 6:42 p.m.

Luxor Bombing Trial (8-27-09)

Porfirio Duarte-Hererra (left) and Omar Rueda-Denvers listen Thursday during closing statements in their trial. The men are charged with placing a bomb in a coffee cup and putting it on the truck of Willebaldo Dorantes Antonio, which killed him when it exploded on May 7, 2007. Launch slideshow »

Jurors will resume deliberations Friday in the trial of two men accused of building and detonating a bomb that killed a man in the Luxor parking garage two years ago.

Prosecutors contend that Omar Rueda-Denvers wanted revenge on his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend and helped his best friend, Porfirio “Pilo” Duarte-Herrera, build the pipe bomb that killed 24-year-old Willebaldo Dorantes Antonio on May 7, 2007.

The jury, which began deliberating today, went home at about 6:30 p.m. and is set to reconvene at 9:30 a.m. Friday to continue deliberations.

“It was the combination of Omar’s obsession and hatred with Pilo’s brilliant bomb-making ability,” said Deputy District Attorney Nell Keenan. “They committed these crimes together.”

The bomb was placed in a 24-ounce coffee cup on the roof of Dorantes Antonio’s Dodge Stratus with a motion-activated detonator that triggered when he picked it up. The blast shredded Dorantes Antonio’s hand and sent a piece of metal into his head, killing him.

His girlfriend, Caren Chali, was standing near the car but was uninjured.

Moments before the explosion at about 4 a.m., the couple was seen on security cameras walking arm-in-arm from the Luxor, where they worked at a hot dog stand.

Keenan said Rueda-Denvers had been following Chali and Dorantes Antonio for weeks before the bombing. At one point, Rueda-Denvers had a verbal confrontation with Dorantes Antonio and also had witnessed he and Chali having sex in the Stratus, he said.

The bomb was placed on the roof where Antonio would have to pick it up and where it could strike both intended targets, Keenan said.

It was only luck that saved Chali, Keenan said.

Chali testified in a videotaped deposition played for the jury that Rueda-Denvers, whom she knew as Alexander Perez, wanted to start dating again because they have a daughter together.

Attorney Clark Patrick, who represents 29-year-old Duarte-Herrera, said his client had no motive because he didn’t know the victims.

“Pilo had no reason to want them dead,” he said. “Mr. Denvers is the one who knew these two people.”

Christopher Orem, the lawyer for 33-year-old Rueda-Denvers, said his client doesn’t build bombs and had no knowledge of what was in the coffee cup.

“He was merely present,” Orem said.

Surveillance cameras on the garage showed a 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt park near Antonio’s car for about one minute and 30 seconds about two hours before the blast. Police traced the car to Rueda-Denvers’ girlfriend, Rosa Alfonso.

Police recovered a spare set of car keys belonging to Alfonso in Rueda-Denvers’ Mazda pickup truck. Investigators found materials similar to those used in the bombing at Duarte-Herrera’s home and in Rueda-Denvers’ truck and in a tool shed at an apartment complex where he worked maintenance.

Both men have pleaded not guilty but each could face the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder.

During four days of testimony, jurors heard from 13 prosecution witnesses and two defense witnesses, but neither defendant testified.

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