Diego Mora

OGDEN — A 16-year-old boy charged in a gang-related slaying will make his first appearance in court this morning as an adult.

Diego Mora was certified as an adult Wednesday to face charges of first-degree felony murder and aggravated robbery.

"Justice demands he be sent to the adult system," said deputy Weber County attorney Dean Saunders.

Mora is accused of killing a man in the parking lot of a Washington Boulevard gas station last year. He was 15 at the time.

In 2nd District Juvenile Court Wednesday, Mora sat quietly and kept his head down. Clad in a jail jumpsuit, a bulletproof vest and his hands in cuffs, Mora still looked like a kid — right down to the whispy mustache of a teenage boy.

The crimes he is accused of committing, prosecutors believe, were anything but juvenile. They were moves to elevate his status in the gang he was so desperate to belong to.

On Sept. 4, Weber County prosecutors said, Mora participated in the armed robbery of a convenience store. On Sept. 21, Ogden police said, two groups of people got into a fight in the parking lot of the Kicks 66 gas station. After Jesus Aparicio, 22, took out a baseball bat, police said Mora pulled out a gun. As Aparicio ran away, a witness testified that Mora shot the man in the back.

On the witness stand, a police officer recalled questioning Mora about his standing in the gang. He testified the teen said he was tired of fellow gang members "talking (expletive) about him."

"Did you feel you had to shoot or lose respect?" Ogden police detective Tim Scott recalled asking.

"Yeah, in a way," he said Mora replied. "They didn't respect me anyway."

Throughout the hearing, the prosecutor, Mora's defense attorney, a probation officer, a psychologist and a vice principal recounted the boy's troubled history. His criminal record wasn't serious, but Mora struggled with depression and learning disabilities. He dropped out of school, used drugs (stealing money from his mother for them), had sex at 13, fathered a child at 15, hung out with gang members and attempted suicide twice while in juvenile detention.

Defense attorney Ian Vallejo argued that Mora should remain in the juvenile court system where he could get effective treatment.

"Hopefully in the end, we have an adjusted individual who can step into society," Vallejo said.

Weber County prosecutors noted that as a juvenile, Mora would only be locked up until his 21st birthday. In the adult system, he faces at least 16 years behind bars, if convicted.

"If he were released, he'd go back into that lifestyle with two older brothers who are in that gang," Saunders said.

Judge Mark Andrus said the seriousness, the aggressiveness and the violent nature of the crime helped him decide to certify Mora as an adult.

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