Two alleged West Valley gang members were arraigned Tuesday in connection with the January stabbing death of 18-year-old Jeremy Gaitin at a West Valley house.
Monday, prosecutors charged Melvin Garcia, 27, of 3981 S. Banock St., and Dominique Vigil, 17, 1953 W. Hyannis Ave., with murder - a first-degree felony. A gang enhancement penalty is included in the complaint as the two suspects allegedly committed the crime in the company of two or more people.Their arrest Monday culminated an eight-month investigation by West Valley police that eventually involved ties to at least one other slaying and numerous other acts of retaliation.
Although Gaitin was stabbed in the presence of numerous friends and rival gang members, getting witnesses to come forward has been difficult. Intimidation and fear of reprisal caused most to resist police questioning, leading Gaitin's family and friends to eventually offer a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of his attackers. It was unknown Tuesday if the reward money played a part in Vigil and Garcia's arrests.
Police had predicted in January at Gaitin's funeral that his death could prompt a virtual blood bath between rival gangs and result in widespread violence throughout the Salt Lake Valley.
Their prediction first came true Feb. 3 when Roland "Bo" Zahorka, 38, was shot to death by Gaitin's friend, 17-year-old Anthony Martin Archuleta, during an argument over a pay phone. Archuleta was reportedly upset over Gaitin's murder at the time of Zahorka's death.
The violence came full circle last May when Melvin Garcia was shot several times in the back at a Midvale convenience store by 18-year-old Jesse James Montoya, Gaitin's cousin. Montoya apparently warned his victim the shooting was "in retaliation for the killing of his homie, Worm," according to gang detectives. Montoya was sentenced Friday to two consecutive zero-to-five-year terms at the Utah State Prison for the shooting. "Worm" was Gaitin's moniker and became well-recognized as it appeared in graffiti across the valley following his death.
Gaitin died after he was jumped by rival gang members Jan. 15 as he partied with friends at a house at 2160 W. Burningham Circle (3830 South). The Millcreek teen was stabbed at least five times in the neck and back.
People who were at the party later told detectives they saw Garcia and Vigil assaulting the victim, according to 3rd Circuit Court documents.
Both suspects have also reportedly admitted to the slaying. Garcia told acquaintances shortly after the incident "we did it," while Vigil has described to friends the manner in which he inflicted Gaitin's wounds, court complaints add.
Garcia and Vigil remain in the Salt Lake County Jail on $250,000 bail.
Vigil, although a juvenile, was charged as an adult since he had previously been certified to stand trial in adult court on an attempted murder charge. He is accused of shooting a 23-year-old Kearns man March 30. Tony Lovato was found lying in the yard outside his home, 4066 W. 5855 South, bleeding from the abdomen, arms and legs. He survived the wounds, which police believe were delivered by a shotgun blast.