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December 22, 2014

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Jurors weigh death penalty in Luxor pipe bomb case

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 »

Two men convicted of killing a man with a pipe bomb pleaded with jurors on Monday to show them mercy and spare their lives.

On Friday, jurors found Omar Rueda-Denvers and Porfirio “Pilo” Duarte-Herrera guilty of first-degree murder, attempted murder and of related bomb possession charges.

Now their lives are in the hands of 12 jurors who will decide if they will die by the state or spend what likely would be the rest of their lives in prison.

Besides the death penalty, jurors can sentence them to 100 years with parole possible after 40 years; life with parole possible after 40 years; or life without parole. Jurors were sent home for the night late Monday and are set to continue deliberations Tuesday morning.

The pipe bomb exploded on the garage roof of the Luxor on May 7, 2007, killing Willebaldo Dorantes Antonio. His girlfriend, Caren Chali, was near the explosion but was unharmed.

Both defendants expressed remorse to Antonio’s family and asked jurors to show them compassion.

“My own life is in your hands,” Herrera, 29, said through a Spanish translator.

Denvers, 33, spoke without the translator’s help and said, “I want to say I’m so sorry to the family Dorantes. I want to say ‘I love you’ to my daughters.”

Several of Herrera’s family members testified Monday about his impoverished upbringing in war-torn Nicaragua. The defense asked jurors to consider his third grade education and 71 IQ.

His mother died when he was young, which tore his family apart, said Clark Patrick, one of Herrera’s lawyers.

“Pilo’s life, if it ends tomorrow or next year, still has value. It has value to his family that came up here and testified,” he said.

Prosecutors contended throughout the trial that Chali spurned Denvers’ attempts to reconcile their intimate relationship and sought the help of his friend, Herrera, to get his revenge.

The bomb tore off Antonio’s hand and sent a piece of metal into his head.

“They didn’t show Caren any mercy. They didn’t show Willebaldo any mercy,” Deputy Defense Attorney Nell Keenan said. “The defendants were his judge, jury and executioner.”

Denvers’ attorneys said he was just trying to find the daughter he had with Chali. Denvers also has a teenage daughter living in Guatemala.

The defendants have no prior convictions or a history of violence. They are not mastermind criminals or the worst type of murderer incarcerated in state prisons, said Chris Orem, an attorney for Denvers.

Orem asked jurors to spare his client’s life and let him live it out in prison.

“A good human lost his life. That should not result automatically in the taking of Mr. Denvers’ life,” he said.

The attack was cold, calculated and could have been much more deadly, prosecutors said.

The bomb was placed in a coffee cup on the roof of Antonio’s car so it would seem like a harmless item, Keenan said.

The bomb sent shrapnel flying the length of a football field and could have injured anyone walking through that blast field.

“They didn’t care who got hit,” prosecutor David Stanton said. “They could have cared less.”

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