Third District Judge Patrick Corum ordered two men to stand trial for aggravated murder on Thursday, determining there was sufficient evidence they killed a man and left his body along Bangerter Highway.
Mario Alberto Carreto-Morales, 24, and Raul Jaimes Cortez, 31, will stand trial for aggravated murder, one count of aggravated kidnapping and two counts of aggravated robbery; all first-degree felonies, and one count of obstructing justice, a second-degree felony.
Cesar Adan Martinez, 37, was stabbed multiple times on Feb. 26 while getting a ride home in his own car, and then thrown onto the Bangerter Highway near 8300 South where his body was found about 2:40 a.m. His car was later found abandoned in East Canyon.
On March 13, Park City police received a report of a man who was held at knifepoint by two men and taken to Salt Lake City where he was forced to withdraw $1,000 from his bank account. Information collected by detectives in Park City helped West Jordan police connect Carreto-Morales and Cortez to Martinez's death, according to charging documents.
One of the robbery charges for each man and the kidnapping charges is related to the Park City incident.
Both men were also charged with a second first-degree felony count of aggravated kidnapping related to Martinez, but Corum determined there was not enough evidence to order them to stand trial for that charge. He said there was no testimony around the circumstances of when Martinez got into the car or what happened in the car.
"It's entirely speculative," he said. "It's a good story, but it's not really supported by any concrete evidence."
Salt Lake County deputy district attorney Jennifer Zeleny argued that Jaimes Cortez and Carreto-Morales were both with Martinez on the night he died and were in the car with weapons. She cited cellphone data, messages and evidence to support those claims and argued they are both implicated equally.
She said there is evidence to support the kidnapping charge.
"He was in that truck against his will. We know that because it ended with his dead body on the side of the road," she said.
An attorney for the defendants, however, argued Martinez had multiple opportunities to tell people he was in trouble, as he contacted others throughout the evening, but he did not.
The two men will be in court again for a hearing on March 2.
A third man, Seferino Ruiz, 55, of West Valley City, was charged on Dec. 19 with obstructing justice, a second-degree felony, and unlawful possession of a financial card, a third-degree felony, in a related incident. According to charging documents, Ruiz attempted to access Martinez's bank account a day after his death.