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1 guilty, 1 acquitted in slaying

SHARE 1 guilty, 1 acquitted in slaying

A 3rd District Court jury found one man guilty and acquitted another Monday in connection with the slaying of an alleged drug dealer last year.

Phillip J. Vasquez, 21, was found guilty of two counts of aggravated robbery, a first-degree felony, and one count of attempted murder, a second-degree felony, in the death of Jesus U. Rodriguez, who prosecutors say died of a fatal blow to the head with a tent stake.The same jury acquitted John Travis Penman, 19, who faced the same charges.

Michael K. Ulibarri, 19, whose murder trial ended in a mistrial in March, pleaded guilty earlier this month to two counts of robbery, a second-degree felony. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dropped the murder count and gang enhancements that could have added a mandatory one to five years to any sentence Ulibarri gets for the robbery convictions.

A fourth man involved in the incident, Steve M. Trujillo, 20, was granted immunity for his testimony.

Prosecutors said the four men set out on the evening of Sept. 4, 1996, to "roll" drug dealers near Pioneer Park - something they had done in the past, Trujillo testified.

The four drove up to Rodriguez and his cousin, Enrique Gastelun, while they sat under a street lamp on 600 West. Ulibarri and Penman got out, each wielding metal stakes. While his friends beat the two men under the light, Trujillo said he chased a third victim, who escaped across the street.

Rodriguez suffered at least three blows, two to the back of his head, and died at the scene. Gas-telun survived with a severely fractured skull and identified his attackers in court as Trujillo and Vasquez.

Defense attorneys for all three men argued that Trujillo was the real killer.

Vasquez is scheduled to be sentenced June 5 before 3rd District Judge Timothy R. Hanson.