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PROSECUTORS IN ARCHULETA TRIAL LIKELY TO FOCUS ON SLAYING SITE

SHARE PROSECUTORS IN ARCHULETA TRIAL LIKELY TO FOCUS ON SLAYING SITE

Prosecutors in the trial of Michael Anthony Archuleta were expected Tuesday to present evidence and testimony about an area just off I-15 near Kanosh where they believe the defendant brutally murdered a Southern Utah State College student.

Defense attorney Michael Esplin, during opening statements Monday in 4th District Court, admitted Archuleta was present when Gordon Ray Church, 28, was murdered early Nov. 22, 1988. According to his brief opening remarks, Esplin's defense strategy will apparently be to cast blame for the slaying upon co-defendant Lance Conway Wood, who also faces a capital-homicide charge in Church's death.Wood, 20, will face trial Feb. 20 before 4th District Judge Boyd L. Park. Archuleta, 26, is being tried before Judge George E. Ballif. If convicted, the defendants could receive the death penalty.

"You're going to have to consider Lance Conway Wood's part in this case," Esplin told the jury of seven men and five women. He said evidence will have to show that Archuleta committed murder, not just that he was present at the murder scene.

In his opening remarks, Millard County Attorney Warren Peterson said evidence will show that the defendant and Wood committed the "cruel and atrocious murder of Gordon Church" after they had kidnapped, terrorized, tortured and sexually abused and assaulted the victim.

Wood led Millard County Sheriff's Office officials to Church's badly beaten and tortured body a day after the murder. The body - gagged, wrapped in tire chains and nude from the waste down - was buried in a shallow grave south of Dog Valley near an I-15 frontage road.

Peterson and co-prosecutor Carvel Harward had little trouble Monday placing Archuleta and Wood with the victim the night of the murder and proving that they were driving the victim's car later that night and early the next morning.

Angela Robins and Anna Luce testified that they were dragging Main Street in Cedar City when they saw Archuleta and Wood riding with the victim in his 1978 white Ford Thunderbird about 10:15 p.m. Nov. 21. The witnesses said Archuleta and Wood tried to "pick them up" and that Archuleta introduced Church after the men followed Robins and Luce to a parking lot where they stopped to talk.

About a half hour later, Robins and Luce testified, they saw Archuleta standing on a Main Street sidewalk and that Church's car had pulled into a nearby convenience store.

Peggy Johnson, an employee at the Summit Truck Stop 10 miles north of Cedar City, testified that Archuleta bought gas for a white Ford Thunderbird sometime after 11 p.m. Nov. 21. She said she didn't notice whether Archuleta was driving alone, and she had trouble remembering what he was wearing.

Robert Moffitt, who owns Bob's Conoco in northwest Spanish Fork, testified that Archuleta and Wood bought gas from his station at about 5:45 a.m. Nov. 22. Moffitt said he remembered Archuleta because he at first mistook the defendant for somebody else.

Moffitt testified that Wood and Archuleta looked like they had "worked all night," that they were dirty and their clothes wrinkled and soiled.