Murder trial ordered in 08 road rage shooting death

Published: Tuesday, March 13 2012 4:35 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — It took more than three years before Troy Williams was arrested and charged in a violent road rage incident that left one man dead and the investigation trail cold.

But Tuesday, more than four years since Frank Saucedo, 43, was killed, Williams was ordered to stand trial for murder, a first-degree felony. Third District Judge Denise Lindberg also ordered the 37-year-old to stand trial on charges of obstructing justice, a second-degree felony, and discharge of a firearm, a third-degree felony.

Morgan Taylor testified about the night of Jan. 15, 2008, when a road rage incident escalated into the shooting of his friend. He had driven Saucedo and Saucedo's then-girlfriend Layce Nielsen to a Smith's Food and Drug near 7000 South and 1000 East.

When the trio pulled out of the parking lot, Taylor said a small pickup truck traveled across a number of other lanes to cut his vehicle off.

"It was close," Taylor said. "I had to slam on my brakes."

When he pulled past the truck at the stoplight at 7200 South and 900 East, he yelled at the driver through his partially open window. He said he was questioning the man about his driving when Saucedo told him to be quiet.

Though the truck was in a turning lane, Taylor said he noticed it once again when he saw headlights in his rearview mirror and realized it was immediately behind him. The truck then drove up alongside Taylor's vehicle while the truck driver started shouting at Taylor.

Taylor decided to turn off 7200 South.

"He turns with me." Taylor testified. "As I turned, I saw him reaching for something. I told Frank: 'He's got a gun.'"

Taylor said he never saw the weapon, but made the assumption that's what the driver was reaching for. The driver of the truck again tried to pull alongside the car.

"I cut him off before he could try anything," Taylor said. "I heard a gunshot. … I looked over and saw Frank had a hole in his head."

The last time Taylor saw the truck was as it ran a red light to flee the scene, he said.

Nielsen had only been dating Saucedo for a few months before he was shot and killed. The relationship was new enough, she said, that she didn't yet know his last name. But she clearly remembers what happened the night a bullet struck him in the back of the head. She spoke haltingly and between tears.

"I just remember screaming and the glass hitting me from the window breaking," Nielsen testified, adding that she heard one "really loud gunshot" just before.

She said Taylor immediately slammed on the brakes and asked her where the nearest hospital was before the pair instead decided to flag down a police officer in the area. An ambulance arrived and transported Saucedo to the hospital.

The man died after being taken off life support a couple of days later. Dr. Todd Grey, Utah's chief medical examiner, testified Tuesday that the man's death was a homicide caused by a single gunshot to the head.

Neither Nielsen nor Taylor got a good look at the driver of the truck, though both described him as a white male with facial hair. News reports asked for tips and one man who saw the truck said he attempted to follow it, but to no avail.

Even after a plea from Saucedo's family and a sketch drawing of a possible suspect was released by police, no one was arrested in connection with the crime for years.

It was August 2011 when Cole Salgy told police about a conversation he had in June with Williams. Williams was rattled after a police raid at his home, Salgy said.

"He said he was worried about (his) gun," Salgy testified. "He said that police had taken a gun that had been involved in a homicide and that he was the only one that had ever owned it."

Williams provided few details, Salgy said, explaining only that he was involved in a road rage incident in which he was outnumbered and feared there would be a fight.

"So, he leaned out the passenger window and shot," Salgy recounted. "Then they pulled over and he hurried home."

Salgy said he was heavily using drugs at the time, which dulled his moral compass. It wasn't until he was in the Utah County Jail following a July 13 arrest that he decided to "try and clear my conscience."

"I'd been sobering up in jail and thinking about what happened and how if it was my kid, I'd want to know," Salgy said. "I couldn't be the one to let the justice go undone."

He contacted police, who came to talk to Salgy and have him released one day early to assist them in recording conversations with Williams. Salgy testified that Williams said very little about the shooting while being recorded.

Police were able to develop information that led to Williams' arrest through ballistics tests and a check of registration records that showed a .40-caliber shell casing found at the scene of the crime came from the gun recovered at Williams' residence. Williams also owned a small pickup truck.

Williams will be arraigned on the charges March 26. He also faces unrelated drug charges.

E-mail: emorgan@desnews.com Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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