PROVO — An illegal immigrant from Mexico arrested in connection with the Friday shooting death of his boss in Lehi had been trying to collect $1,345 in back wages from the employer.
Jesus Hernandez, 32, filed a complaint with the Utah Labor Commission last month seeking a judgment against Joseph Crummy, 38, the owner of Prestige Exteriors.
Hernandez also had allegedly threatened to shoot Crummy, according to a Utah County prosecutor.
Hernandez was talkative Monday during his first court appearance, done via a video hookup from the Utah County Jail. In fact, he was too talkative for 4th District Judge Anthony Schofield, who cut him off when the judge felt Hernandez was venturing toward a discussion that could become evidence.
The exchange came when Schofield asked Hernandez if he is employed. "Unfortunately," Hernandez replied, "I was employed by the person that I . . . ."
Schofield quickly interrupted Hernandez, who does not yet have an attorney, and said, "Don't say anything more about the current offense."
After pausing to listen to Schofield's statement through a Spanish interpreter, Hernandez, who spoke in English, continued, "What I'm saying is, that was the last job I had."
Utah County deputy attorney Curtis Larson told Schofield of allegations that Hernandez threatened Crummy, a stucco contractor, because Crummy hadn't paid Hernandez for work he'd done.
"Because of the premeditation in this case," Larson said, "and the fact that the INS may have an interest in taking (Hernandez) from the United States, we request $500,000 cash-only bail."
Schofield set bail at $500,000 cash-only and scheduled a hearing for Jan. 20, when Hernandez will be assigned a public defense attorney.
Meanwhile, Hispanic labor leaders decried both the fatal shooting and what they say is a common practice of not paying undocumented workers.
Hernandez filed a claim against Crummy on Dec. 22, asking the Labor Commission to help him collect $1,345 in wages he said Crummy owed him for 134.5 hours of work done in Alpine between Dec. 1 and Dec. 19.
On the form, Hernandez wrote, "I have not received any check" and said he quit "because he does not pay."
He also wrote that he asked Crummy for payment on Dec. 20.
Hernandez's claim was one of 19 complaints — all made by Hispanic workers — filed against Crummy and his business, Prestige Exteriors, since June, according to Sherrie Hayashi, director of Utah's Anti-Discrimination and Labor Division. All of the complaints alleged unpaid wages or bad checks. The 19 claims total close to $40,000, according to the Utah Labor Commission.
Hayashi said Prestige Exteriors did not respond to three claims and the Labor Commission ordered Crummy to make the payments. Two other claims were resolved.
The other 14 claims, including the one Hernandez filed in December, had been partially paid or were pending.
Hispanic workers organized a protest in September at the Labor Commission to complain that some Utah employers were threatening undocumented workers with deportation if they complained about not being paid.
Hayashi said undocumented workers should contact the Labor Commission if they aren't being paid by employers. Another option is the Utah Office of Hispanic Affairs, said director Tony Yapias.
"We don't ask whether someone has a right to work in the United States or not," Hayashi said. "We are just interested to see they are paid wages for work they have performed."
Spanish interpreters are available and workers won't be asked about their immigration status.
"We encourage all members of the community to not take the law into their own hands," Hayashi said. "The Labor Commission provides lawful methods for them to resolve disputes."
Crummy's wife is nine months pregnant, according to his obituary published Monday in the Deseret Morning News. He is survived by another child in Salt Lake City, as well as three children from a previous marriage who live in Georgia, Larson said. In the obituary, Crummy's family called him "an innocent victim of a senseless act of violence."
Crummy died Friday at American Fork Hospital soon after a man pulled a black Pontiac alongside Crummy's red pickup late Friday morning at a job site on Heather Field Lane in Lehi. The two men argued through their open car windows about paychecks, according to a witness who worked for Crummy.
Police and prosecutors say the man in the Pontiac pulled out a gun and began shooting. He closed in on Crummy and shot him twice at close range, once in the left side of his face and once in the right shoulder.
Lehi Police Sgt. Jeff Swenson said the shooter fired five or six rounds.
A witness told police he saw Hernandez shoot Crummy, according to court documents. The witness gave police information about Hernandez's car and officers obtained his address through driver's license records. They phoned Hernandez, who agreed to surrender himself at his mother's house in Taylorsville less than two hours after the shooting.
His cooperation extended further. Hernandez told officers he'd thrown a gun into the Jordan River, according to court documents, and led investigators to the site at about 10900 S. 750 West, where the handgun was recovered.
Hernandez arrived in Utah in 1999 and was living with his wife and three daughters in West Valley prior to his arrest.
He is being held for investigation of murder, obstruction of justice and possession of a firearm by a restricted person. Prosecutors don't have the police reports yet and formal charges won't be filed until later this week at the earliest, Larson said.