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September 5, 2014
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DA still weighing death penalty in El Jebel double homicide case

Prosecutors in a double-homicide case in El Jebel haven’t reached a decision on whether to pursue the death penalty against the suspect, 5th Judicial District Attorney Bruce Brown said this week.

Brown said the attorneys on his staff will have an “office discussion” on whether to seek the death penalty for Williams Anderson Amaya, who has yet to enter a plea in the case. The defense will be given the opportunity to present any information it feels should be weighed in that decision, he said.

Brown told an Eagle County district judge on July 28 that he and his staff were leaning against seeking the death penalty. However, he reserved the right to take the time for a “rigorous review” of the circumstances of the case before making a final determination.

Brown said this week that no deadline is looming to force that decision. A preliminary hearing will be held Oct. 6. The prosecution will be required to show it has enough evidence to convince a judge that the case should proceed to trial.

Amaya, 33, of El Jebel, is being held without bond in the Eagle County Jail because he is believed to be a flight risk. Authorities allege he shot his aunt and uncle, Mayra and Eliseo Lopez, in their midvalley home the night of July 12. Amaya was renting a room from them in the Sopris Village home.

The Lopezes were shot four times each, according to Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis. The District Attorney’s Office said there were also bullet holes in the bedclothes of the Lopezes’ two teenage boys, who escaped injury.

Amaya allegedly fled the scene but was later arrested without incident at his workplace in rural Garfield County. The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office said it recovered what is believed to be the murder weapon.

Amaya faces two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted first-degree murder, four counts of crimes of violence and one count of tampering with physical evidence.

The shootings shocked many people in the Roaring Fork Valley. Brown said his office’s research indicated the case was the first double homicide in the 5th Judicial District since at least the 1970s.

If the death penalty isn’t pursued, Amaya will face multiple life terms in prison if convicted.

Brown said it is too early to consider plea negotiations in the case. The defense typically has little incentive to negotiate in a case prior to a preliminary hearing.

As he did on July 28, Brown declined this week to discuss whether Amaya confessed to the shootings.

“I omit comment on defendants’ statements,” he said.

Discussing whether a defendant, in any case, is cooperating with authorities can prejudice a jury, Brown said.

If the case proceeds beyond the preliminary hearing, a trial of up to three weeks is expected, Brown said during an earlier court hearing.

“I omit comment on defendants’ statements.”
Bruce Brown
District Attorney, 5th Judicial District

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The Aspen Times Updated Sep 5, 2014 06:42AM Published Sep 6, 2014 06:49AM Copyright 2014 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.