Witness says he saw killings

Startling testimony at hearing in 2 Orem shootings

Published: Tuesday, April 13 2004 2:00 p.m. MDT

PROVO — A man charged with shooting a Provo couple last summer wasn't alone during the killings at an Orem tree nursery, according to testimony at a preliminary hearing Monday.

Wearing an orange Weber County Jail jumpsuit and testifying under limited immunity, West Jordan's Jeremy Gerton, 21, took the stand and said he was with his friend and roommate, Riverton native Seth Broomhead, when Broomhead allegedly killed the couple at Cook's Farm & Greenhouse on June 13.

Gerton waved to the woman, Maritza Aguilar, who was an acquaintance, and saw Broomhead get into the back seat of the couple's Honda Accord. But he turned away after he saw Aguilar's boyfriend, Pablo Montoya, pull a plastic bag of cocaine from under the driver's seat.

When he heard a pop, Gerton turned back to see Montoya slump forward.

"I saw (Broomhead) move the gun from Pablo to Maritza," Gerton said. "It looked like he pointed it at the back left side of her head."

Gerton said Broomhead fired twice, then returned to his Jeep Cherokee, where Gerton said he waited in fear for his life.

"He was the one with the gun," Gerton said. "I didn't know if something like that was going to happen to me."

The startling testimony — the existence of an eyewitness had been kept a secret — took up half of the first day of Broomhead's preliminary hearing, in part because defense attorneys dwelled on the state and federal immunity granted to Gerton.

Prosecutors still plan to seek the death penalty for Broomhead, 20, on two counts of capital murder, Utah County Deputy Attorney Tim Taylor said.

A member of the Cook family discovered the bodies of Montoya, 20, and Aguilar, 22, the morning after they were shot, on the southeast corner of the tree nursery at 1645 W. 1600 North.

Gerton is scheduled to be released from the Weber County Jail today after completing a 270-day sentence for a 2003 robbery in Salt Lake County.

Gerton, Broomhead and a third member of the Newborn Mafiosos — police say it is a new gang, but Gerton called it a budding rap music label — are under federal indictment for a robbery at a 7-Eleven in Sandy on May 18, 2003.

Prosecutors granted Gerton immunity from any charges related to the killings in return for his testimony. The U.S. Attorney's Office also offered considerations in exchange for "truthful, accurate" testimony in the murder case.

Gerton, who has been a reserve F-16 crew chief at Hill Air Force Base, declined to answer questions eight times during his testimony Monday, invoking the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and attorney-client privilege.

He testified that Broomhead set up a drug deal with Montoya through Aguilar. Broomhead agreed by cell phone to pay $4,000 for 10 ounces of cocaine, according to Gerton, who said Broomhead didn't have any money and said he would pull "a jack move," slang for stealing the drugs.

Gerton said Broomhead used a black .22-caliber revolver he'd stolen from his brother Aaron's house. Gerton said the murders happened sometime between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m. on June 13, but said he didn't have a watch and couldn't be certain of the time.

Broomhead used gloves and a shirt to wipe down Montoya's car, pulled Montoya out of the vehicle and took his wallet and car keys, Gerton said. He testified Broomhead later asked a friend to dispose of the gun.

Gerton said Aguilar's friend, Lupe Moreno, knew about the drug deal and suspected Broomhead was involved in the murder.

"If she says something," Gerton said Broomhead told him, "she'll be next, because I'm not going down for this."

Moreno took the stand later in the day and denied knowledge of the drug deal. Her testimony that Broomhead and Gerton ate between 6 and 8 p.m. at an American Fork restaurant conflicted with Gerton's time estimates. Gerton said the pair ate before going to the drug deal.

The hearing will continue Wednesday before 4th District Court Judge Steven Hansen, who allowed a Deseret Morning News photographer into the courtroom Monday but ordered, at the prosecution's request, that no photos be taken of the witnesses.

"Obviously they are concerned about Jeremy's safety," said Gerton's attorney, Joseph Jardine. "He's the star witness and the only eyewitness to the case."


E-mail: twalch@desnews.com

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