WEST JORDAN — Days after he was shot in the neck, Simon Vasquez was alive and conscious.
But the Aug. 5, 2012, shooting had left him paralyzed from the chest down and he made the decision to be taken off of the equipment that was sustaining his life.
His girlfriend, Cindy James, was emotional Friday as she recalled Vasquez being found capable of making the decision "to be taken off of life support, to not have to suffer because he would not live very long."
Once he died, Vasquez's nephew faced a second murder charge.
Dr. Julie Schrader, assistant Utah medical examiner, classified Simon Vasquez's death as a homicide. Although Simon Vasquez made the decision to cease oxygen and blood pressure treatment that was keeping him alive, she said it was still the initial gunshot wound to the neck that paralyzed him and made him dependent on medical intervention to sustain him.
"His life was being supported, he was alive and conscious, he was able to talk, but medically he was unstable with his blood and oxygen levels," Schrader said. "If not but for that injury wound to his neck, he would still be alive today."
James testified Friday during a preliminary hearing against Alexander Leroy Vasquez, who is charged with aggravated murder and murder in the deaths of his uncle and another man. Simon Vasquez, 40, and Paul Giovale, 41, both died as a result of gunshot wounds sustained in a shooting at a Sandy garage at 80 E. 8640 South where drugs were being used.
James testified that she and Simon Vasquez were at the home with a few others when Alex Vasquez brought in one man and then asked to use James' phone. A couple of minutes later, Alex Vasquez returned with two more men and a woman whom she did not know.
James said she asked for her phone and Alex Vasquez refused, prompting her to appeal to Simon Vasquez. Her phone was returned, and James and Simon Vasquez went to leave.
"Alex said, 'No one is (expletive deleted) going anywhere,'" James said, stating that the man then drew a gun from a vehicle parked in the garage. "He had (the gun) pointed at everybody."
James said Alex Vasquez ordered his uncle, Simon Vasquez, to pat down one of the men in the garage, but Simon Vasquez didn't want any part of the situation. The man (who prosecutors say was Giovale) went to pull out a gun, though, and James said the man then shot Simon Vasquez in the neck.
She testified that she went into the home for help and eventually called 911. At one point, the garage door closed and then reopened and James said she realized shots were still being fired. Later, she saw a man lying dead in the backyard.
James testified that she thought she had been grazed by a bullet, only to realize later she had been hit in the arm.
Sandy police officer Tyson Downey interviewed Simon Vasquez while he was in the hospital and was told the incident had something to do with a rental car that Alex Vasquez's brother, Andrew, was alleged to have stolen "with large amounts of drugs inside." Apparently the vehicle was returned without the drugs, Downey said.
Andrew Vasquez invoked his right against self-incrimination Friday when it came to questions about an incident involving a rental car. No official motive for the shootings has been given.
Andrew Vasquez testified Friday that he was high on methamphetamine the day of the incident but does remember a conversation about drugs followed by repeated "boom" sounds.
"Alex had something in his hands, I can't really say if it was his cellphone or a gun," Andrew Vasquez said. "It kind of seemed like there was things going all around. I was blessed I didn't get hit by a bullet."
Simon Vasquez told Downey, according to the officer, that Alex Vasquez was the first to pull out a gun. He also told police there were two men with guns: Alex Vasquez and Giovale.
Dr. Eric Christensen with the Utah Medical Examiner's Office said Giovale suffered three gunshot wounds, which caused his death.
"He certainly was intoxicated with methamphetamine at the time of his death," Christensen said, noting that the cause of death was still gunshot wounds.
Sandy police officer Chris Thomas testified that Alex Vasquez was arrested in Midvale after the shooting. Thomas said two firearms were found within 60 feet of him — a .38-caliber revolver found on a lawn and a .40-caliber handgun found in a bag containing items belonging to Giovale.
Bullets from a .38- and .40-caliber handgun were found in the garage. A bullet from a .38-caliber firearm was recovered from Giovale's body.
A bullet from a .40-caliber firearm was recovered from Simon Vasquez's body. Prosecutors believe Alex Vasquez's gun killed Giovale, and shots from Giovale's gun struck Simon Vasquez. But because they believe Alex Vasquez was responsible for instigating the entire incident, prosecutors say he is criminally liable for both killings.
Alex Vasquez admitted in a police interview that he was in the garage but denied ever having a gun, according to Thomas. He said he hid from police in Midvale because he was scared.
Vasquez was on parole at the time of the shooting and is currently in the Utah State Prison for a parole violation. He was sentenced to prison in 2008 after being found guilty of two counts of unlawfully possessing a vehicle to commit a felony and escaping from official custody. He was paroled in January of 2012.
The hearing on the evidence will continue May 22, at which time 3rd District Judge Charlene Barlow will decide if there is enough evidence to order Alex Vasquez to stand trial on the charges. He is charged with aggravated murder, a capital offense; murder and aggravated kidnapping, first-degree felonies; and second-degree felony charges of discharge of a weapon with injury, and two counts of possession of a weapon by a restricted person.