One of 2 brothers facing murder charges ordered to stand trial

Published: Wednesday, July 21 2010 4:34 p.m. MDT

WEST JORDAN — One of two brothers who have been charged in connection with two separate homicides committed over the course of two days was ordered Wednesday to stand trial on all charges against him.

Benjamin Arriaga Luna, 37, was charged in April with murder, a first-degree felony, possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person and obstructing justice, both second-degree felonies, in connection with the April 4 slaying of Benicio Hernandez-Herrera, 33, in West Jordan.

His brother, Delfino Arriaga Luna, 31, was charged with a separate homicide that occurred the next day in Salt Lake City.

In court Wednesday, witnesses detailed the crime scene and the connection between what was found there and what was later found at Delfino Luna's apartment, defense attorney Rudy Bautista said. He said a Modelo beer can and five bullet shell casings were found near Hernandez-Herrera's body, which had been abandoned in a West Jordan field.

The beer can had the same lot number as four other Modelo beers that were found at Delfino Luna's apartment. A search of the apartment also turned up muddy pants and boots covered in the same "gray clay"-type mud that was at the crime scene, Bautista said.

Benjamin Luna turned himself in for questioning in the death of Stephanie Williams, 19, who was found shot in her grandmother's Salt Lake home on April 5. Though it was Delfino Luna who was ultimately arrested and charged with murder in that case, the police interview with Benjamin Luna led officers to suspect him in the Hernandez-Herrera killing.

"Benjamin stated that a fight took place between himself and (Hernandez-Herrera). Benjamin stated that he pulled the gun out of his waistband and shot (Hernandez-Herrera) numerous times," a Salt Lake County Jail report states.

Bautista said prosecutors had just given him a recorded confession from his client, but he plans to seek to suppress the use of the alleged confession in trial because he said it was given after Benjamin Luna asked for an attorney.

"Before it goes down, he asked to get an attorney," Bautista said. "My understanding is that after he invokes his 6th Amendment right, they have to stop questioning. With (the suppression) granted, they'll have a hard time proving their case."

Prosecutor Joseph Hill, however, said he is "pretty confident" in the state's case.

Hill said Benjamin Luna communicated to police that Hernandez-Herrera was having an affair with his wife that may have gone on for many years and that was the cause of the conflict between the two men.

Bautista said investigators are currently working to determine whether the .40-caliber pistol that has been recovered by police was used in both shootings. At this point, Bautista said the two homicides appear to be "completely different situations."

A strange twist of the case is the alleged involvement of a third man, Victor Sanchez, 40, who was charged with aggravated kidnapping after police say he picked up Delfino Luna's girlfriend and two children as ransom for Williams.

e-mail: emorgan@desnews.com

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