Four men will be tried in the murder of Adam Wells, a justice of the peace determined Friday, but charges were reduced against two of the defendants after Judge Robey Willis determined there wasn't evidence to try them on some of the charges.
Danny Shaw, 21, and Tyler Cruz, 24, will be tried on suspicion of capital murder, first-degree kidnapping with the use of a deadly weapon, battery with the use of a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit a crime, unlawful use of a controlled substance and destroying or concealing evidence in the Oct. 5 killing of Wells, 20.
Shaw led investigators to Wells' body where he'd been dumped in the desert on Oct. 6, bound and gagged. An autopsy determined he died from strangulation coupled with a beating.
According to court testimony, the men claimed Wells had stolen drugs and a safe from Shaw. They allegedly lured him to Shaw's home, where Shaw attacked him with a bat while he sat on a couch. One of the men allegedly produced a gun and both Shaw and Cruz tied Wells with 84 feet of rope.
Judge Willis agreed there was enough evidence to try Juan Cervantes, 20, on charges of capital murder, battery with a deadly weapon and conspiracy to commit a crime, but Willis dismissed a charge of first-degree kidnapping because Cervantes said he left before Wells was tied up. Cervantes is free on a property bond.
Fred Bechtold, 20, also had a charge dismissed - conspiracy to commit a crime. He will be tried as an accessory to a felony and a charge of destroying and concealing evidence. His bail was reduced to $5,000.
"This is a tragedy," Shaw's attorney Scott Freeman said. "But with respect to Mr. Wells' family, I have to say, he started the events that occurred on that day. Mr. Wells was a bigger man. What he did was he decided to pick on his little friend. Mr. Wells came to the house; Mr. Wells stole. (Danny) called for help because he couldn't handle it himself.
"We learned that Adam Wells was tied up. It's quite apparent they tied him up because they thought he was going to kick their asses. When you look at the facts of the case and you look at Danny Shaw, you know he never intended to kill Adam Wells."
Cruz's attorney Tod Young echoed Freeman's sentiments.
"What happened here is Adam died from strangulation. There was going to be a confrontation. This wasn't to kidnap him, it wasn't to kill him. It was to say, 'Hey, you're stealing from me and you're my friend,'" Young said. "They were just young men who were careless and incautious, but not malicious."
In arguing his client was innocent of the allegations, attorney Jason Woodbury pointed out there was no testimony that Juan Cervantes was involved in tying up or striking Wells. In a taped statement to police, Cervantes said he was aware Wells was being set up, but he did not take part once the assault started.
"Your honor, there has to be some evidence, and I submit to this court there is no evidence to support these charges. There is no evidence he ever touched a hair on Adam Wells' head," Woodbury said.
But District Attorney Noel Waters argued all four men knew something inherently dangerous was going to take place.
"Although people are dancing around it, there is at least an anticipation there is going to be a fight and blunt force objects are going to be used. These guys basically beat (Wells) to death. They beat him down, and to make him quiet they pointed a gun at him and tied him up. He's trussed up so much that Harry Houdini couldn't get out of there. He's a helpless human being doing no harm to anyone," Waters said.
-- Contact reporter F.T. Norton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1213.