ST. GEORGE – A man accused of murdering his sister’s fiancé was bound over for trial Thursday after a judge ruled there was enough evidence supporting the charges presented by the state.
Mario Antoine Lucero, 31, appeared with his attorney, Edward Flint, in 5th District Court before Judge Michael Westfall Thursday morning for a preliminary hearing concerning a February 2013 domestic violence incident that resulted in the death of Jeremy Shawn Olsen, 31, of St. George.
Lucero faces charges of first-degree felony murder and third-degree felony assault, along with two class-A misdemeanors for assault and criminal mischief. He also faces an unrelated first-degree felony charge for assaulting a fellow inmate while incarcerated at the Purgatory Correctional Facility in Washington County in October 2013.
Recounting the incident
Jerry Jaeger, of the Washington County Attorney’s Office, represented the state during the preliminary hearing and called Lucero’s sister, Deresi Haley, to testify. Haley was Olsen’s fiance. They were together for more than eight years and had three children.
Haley was emotional when called to the witness stand. While initially describing the events that transpired on Feb. 15, 2013, she looked at Lucero and said, “He’s smiling; stop it.”
Lucero was smiling and laughed at his sister after she took the stand.
Haley said her family was hosting a barbecue at their home in the Dixie Downs area of St. George the day of the incident. Aside from Haley, her mother, Sharon Gomez, and Olsen were present at about 5:30 p.m. Lucero arrived with a friend at approximately 7 p.m.; the friend’s girlfriend and their baby arrived soon after. The friends brought a pack of Alize, an alcoholic beverage.
Alcohol was consumed at the barbecue, Haley said. She told the court she drank two shots of Jägermeister and saw Olsen and Lucero each consume mixed drinks of whiskey and Coke.
During cross-examination, Flint asked if Lucero had appeared intoxicated, and Haley said he hadn’t. Instead, he was “nice and mellow.”
As the party progressed, Lucero’s friends left with their alcohol and Gomez and Lucero headed to another part of the home for a smoke break. That is when Haley said she heard a commotion coming from their direction.
She said she went to the room the noise was coming from and opened the door to find her mother on the floor at Lucero’s feet. Lucero also looked like he had a hand raised to beat her mother. Haley said she asked, “What the hell are you doing?”
Lucero then allegedly started hitting Haley in the face. She said the last thing she saw before passing out was Olsen trying to hold Lucero back and Lucero allegedly saying, “You want some of this, too?”
When Haley regained consciousness, she said she saw her mother on the ground and thought she was dead. She said she picked her mother up and left the bathroom and then found the kitchen in disarray. She described seeing broken glass on the floor, a microwave broken and laying on the floor, multiple holes in the wall and food spilled everywhere.
She said she left the kitchen and found Olsen sitting up on a couch with his head to the side. He tried to talk, Haley said, but was making gurgling noises.
“There was blood everywhere,” Haley said. She was crying on the stand and had to pause to compose herself after Jaeger showed her a picture investigators had taken of her fiancé’s injuries.
“That was the last time I saw him,” she said.
Olsen was taken by Life Flight to University Medical Center in Las Vegas in critical condition and was described as having suffered significant trauma to his head. He died the following day.
Lucero had fled the scene of the incident and was later taken into custody by law enforcement in California on a warrant related to the assault on Olsen.
Haley said she had a swollen face that was black and blue from Lucero’s alleged attacked and that her mother had bruises on her arms and lesions on her legs.
Flint asked Haley if she knew what the trigger behind the assault was, and she said she didn’t know. If she did, she said, she might have some sense of closure. However, she said, Gomez had apparently said afterward that she had told Lucero to “stay on the right path” before things got out of control.
During cross-examination, it was brought out that Lucero had assaulted Haley once before in 2011. However, Haley described her brother before that time as being someone who acted as a protector of the family and was friends with Olsen.
Jaeger pointed out that Haley did not originally tell police everything that had happened the night of the fight, though she eventually did. She said she was afraid at the time because she had no idea where Lucero was.
“My life had been turned upside down,” she said. “I was scared.”
Interview in California
St. George Police Detective Jordan Minnick was called to testify next. The detective had traveled to California and met with Lucero, who was being held at the Los Angeles County Jail at the time. Prior to the interview, Lucero was arrested and detained in California on an out-of-state warrant. Minnick told Lucero his rights, and Lucero allegedly waived his right to an attorney at the time and agreed to talk.
Minnick said Lucero told him he “didn’t give a f— about the case” but that he would go ahead and plead guilty if the prosecutors went ahead with a manslaughter charge.
Lucero also allegedly told the detective he would accept sole responsibility for what happened to Olsen and didn’t want anyone else with family or children getting sucked into the matter.
During the testimony and resultant cross-examination, Minnick said Lucero told him he had been looking forward to drinking alcohol at the barbecue as he had been unable to consume it for a time.
Lucero said he had been drinking some the day of the incident and also said he could be hard to control when he had been drinking. Minnick said Lucero told him he couldn’t recall how much alcohol he had consumed but indicated that was a possible trigger for what happened later on.
“It all went wrong with the first drink,” Minnick said Lucero had told him.
The detective also said Lucero told him that if it were anyone else but Olsen who had been killed, he wouldn’t have cared. As it was, however, Minnick said Lucero told him, “He just wanted to get back to Utah and plead guilty (to manslaughter).”
During parts of Minnick’s testimony, Lucero grinned and nodded, particularly when Minnick recounted how Lucero said he didn’t really care about the case or want others getting sucked into it.
Lucero was given a chance to testify but chose to decline upon Flint’s advisement.
Attorneys’ closing words
“The evidence is clear,” Jaeger said to the court.
Based on the evidence, witness testimony and citing Lucero as a “habitually violent” offender based on prior offenses, Jaeger said the charges fit the crime and requested the court bind Lucero over for trial.
Though Flint didn’t dispute the majority of the charges, he did take issue with the murder charge and said the evidence better fit manslaughter. No one had actually witnessed what happened between Lucero and Olsen the night of the incident, he said.
Westfall ruled in the state’s favor and bound Lucero over for trial. An arraignment hearing has been set for Oct. 22 at 10 a.m.
“It’s been a long time getting to this point,” Glen Worthen, Olsen’s father, said.
“It’s unbelievable,” Worthen added. “It’s more a joke to (Lucero) than anything else.”
Olsen’s parents attended the hearing with other members of Olsen’s and Haley’s respective families.
Lucero has no remorse or regret, Worthen said. Instead, he’s getting his 15 minutes of fame.
“This should be more about our son – not him,” Worthen said.
Olsen was buried in his hometown of Panguitch.
The court held a second preliminary hearing detailing an alleged assault by Lucero on another prisoner while he was at Purgatory Correctional Facility jail in October 2013. A witness in that case – the inmate who had been assaulted – was reportedly on the way to the court but never arrived. He also refused to return calls from authorities.
Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy Cortney Cheesman, a corrections officer at Purgatory, did however testify in relation to the incident.
Westfall ruled Lucero be bound over on the prisoner assault case, as well, also to be arraigned on Oct. 22.
- Lucero appears in court for murder case
- Lucero to be extradited, police seeking additional witnesses in homicide
- Suspect in fatal assault arrested in California
- Victim in aggravated assault case dies, police still looking for suspect
- Police seek man involved in aggravated assault
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