Six witnesses testified Monday in 3rd District Court that they either saw a man carrying bloody knives or heard that man claim responsibility for stabbing a Salt Lake man during a fight at a Rose Park party last June in which a father and his son were killed.
But during questioning by Deputy County Attorney Kent Morgan, three of the witnesses - including the defendant's cousin - admitted lying to police officers who investigated the two homicides.Morgan accused the witnesses of changing their stories to try to protect their friend, Fred Alvarez, by pinning the blame for the stabbings on another man at the party, Tony DeHerrera.
Alvarez, 17, is charged with two counts of capital homicide in connection with the deaths of Don Newingham, 39, and his 18-year-old son, Shane, and faces a possible death sentence if convicted.
Shannon Pina, 19, said she was inside the house at 467 N. Morton Drive on June 9 when the fight broke out in the front yard. She said that following the fight, DeHerrera ran into the house holding a bloody knife in each hand and told her to hide the weapons.
She said she grabbed some toilet paper to pick up the large knife and then placed it into a washing machine. "I didn't want my fingerprints on it," she said.
But Pina testified that she forgot about the second knife that she said DeHerrera had thrown on the couch. She said she was cleaning up the house because she knew that the police would be coming soon and then noticed the knife, picked it up with her bare hands and threw it into the kitchen sink.
"What was the difference between the two knives that you treated them so differently," asked Morgan. "The reason is that this knife was never handed to you by Tony DeHerrera."
"Yes, it was," she replied.
"Isn't it true you fabricated this story to try to get your friend, Freddy, off the hook?"
Morgan accused Pina of telling lies about that night on three different occasions and asked her why she felt the jury should believe her testimony about the knives.
"I don't know," she replied.
Gina Silva told the courtroom she also saw DeHerrera with weapons following the fight. Silva admitted that she withheld vital information from the police when she was questioned following the stabbings because she said she was scared. She said she went to the police again two days after the incident with information about DeHerrera's involvement.
"I seen him (DeHerrera) and I thought he did it. And if he did it, I think he should be up here," she said from the witness stand.
A 14-year-old who was also at the drinking party, Chris Blackhorse, said he, too, saw DeHerrera return inside the house after the fight with two knives that were dripping with blood. "He (DeHerrera) kept saying, `I got him, Homes. I got him, Homes,' like he was bragging about it."
Manuel Martinez said he heard DeHerrera say, "I got the dad. I stabbed the dad." Martinez said he was involved in the fight and was knocked unconscious by Shane Newingham. When he came to, he said, he saw Kenny Salas hugging the victims and asking for help because they were dead.
"I just turned around and ran," Martinez said.
DeHerrera was originally booked into jail following the stabbings but was later released.
Fernando Nigretti told the jury that before the stabbings, DeHerrera opened up his jacket and offered him a knife that he was carrying in an inside pocket. Nigretti said he felt that incident was significant because he later spoke with others present at the fight and discovered that DeHerrera may have been involved. He told Morgan he came forward with his testimony "to get Tony into it."
"That would make your friend (Fred Alvarez) less into it, isn't that the point?" Morgan asked.
"Yes," he replied.
The jury is expected to hear closing arguments in the case and begin deliberations Wednesday.