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Californian faces death penalty if convicted of slaying on I-15

There is enough evidence to order a California man to stand trial for murder, but the evidence doesn't warrant Jose Garcia-Miramontes, 21, facing the death penalty, his defense attorney said Wednesday.

Attorney Lynne Brown said the killing of Lee Wayne Parker on I-15 in the early morning hours of May 21 and subsequent shots fired at witnesses were separate criminal episodes.But 3rd District Judge Michael L. Hutchings disagreed and ordered Garcia-Miramontes bound over for trial on capital murder, attempted murder and theft charges.

The shots a witness reported Garcia-Miramontes fired at him constitute an aggravating circumstance, which the law requires for a death penalty charge, argued prosecutor Bob Stott.

Had Brown prevailed in his argument, Garcia-Miramontes would have faced life in prison if convicted instead of the death penalty.

Stott argued the statute is clear and Garcia-Miramontes' action in shooting at onlookers constitutes an aggravating circumstance, which the law was written to cover.

Witnesses at Garcia-Miramontes' preliminary hearing testified they saw him approach Parker's car, which had coasted to a stop in the northbound lanes of I-15 at 7200 South, and fire several shots at him.

Stott described the final shot as "execution-style" and the "coup de grace."

Parker, who was on his way to work at the post office when the incident occurred shortly after 4 a.m., was shot in the head, back and elbow.

Prosecutors did not present a motive for the shooting, and Garcia-Miramontes, a California resident, did not testify at the hearing.

Witnesses described Garcia-Miramontes as appearing "determined" and "on a mission" as he went after Parker.

Pete Ellison, a long-haul trucker, testified he saw Garcia-Miramontes' car veer across three lanes of traffic on I-15 and sideswipe Parker's car, which pulled off the freeway at the 7200 South onramp and coasted to a stop.

Garcia-Miramontes made a U-turn in the freeway median and drove back toward Parker against the three lanes of traffic, Ellison testified.

Ellison said Garcia-Miramontes made another U-turn when he was parallel to Parker's car and smashed into it again.

Witness Jeanie Ison testified she saw Garcia-Miramontes approach the driver's window of the car on foot and fire four shots from a handgun. He then peered in the window, she said.

It was then that Peter Karpakis, also northbound on the freeway, pulled up next to Parker's car to see what the problem was. They could see Parker in the car covered with blood, then saw Garcia-Miramontes and the gun and drove away, said Karpakis' passenger Fred Mauney.

Garcia-Miramontes fired several shots at them, one hitting the rear of Karpakis' truck cab, he testified. Garcia-Miramontes also pursued them in his car, ramming the truck twice before spinning off into the freeway median.

Police responding to the scene found Parker, still buckled in his seatbelt in his car with the engine running and his foot on the brake.

Garcia-Miramontes was captured three hours later, driving a stolen car and heading south on I-15 near Fillmore.