A jury has convicted an Iron County man of two counts of aggravated murder in the shooting deaths of two men.
Martin Chris Nelson, 45, was also convicted of one count of theft by receiving stolen property, a second-degree felony.
The jury of eight men and four women reached its decision Tuesday after over six hours of deliberation.
Fifth District Judge G. Michael Westfall has scheduled a Feb. 5 hearing to listen to evidence from the prosecution and defense before deciding whether Nelson should receive the death penalty for the slayings of Derek Davis and Chad Grijalva. Nelson also faces up to 15 years in prison for the theft charge.
In late 2007, Nelson shot and killed Davis and Grijalva at his Beryl home, then buried them under a shed on his property.
Grijalva and Davis were last seen on Oct. 24, 2007, after telling family members they were headed to the Cedar City area to run an errand.
"Grijalva's family members reported that Grijalva was going to meet with (Nelson) to collect some money owed to Grijalva by the defendant for slate tile that Grijalva installed," court documents state.
Authorities said a call to Nelson's cell phone was the last one made by Grijalva before he disappeared. Based on that, deputies began focusing their investigation on Nelson.
A convicted sex offender, Nelson was initially arrested in November 2007 for failure to register as a sex offender, drug possession and possession of a dangerous weapon. During a search of his property, Iron County sheriff's deputies spotted Davis' truck. It had been partially dismantled, prosecutors say, and stripped down to the frame.
The bodies of Davis and Grijalva were found on Nov. 17, 2007, buried in a shallow grave under a shed on the property. The pair died of multiple gunshot wounds. Deputies said Nelson killed the men with a .22-caliber rifle he bought for $10 from a friend who knew it was stolen.
During the trial, Nelson testified that he shot Davis and Grijalva in self defense after they became irate during a drug deal and attacked him, the (St. George) Spectrum reported. A firearms expert for the defense testified that the victims' injuries could have been inflicted while they were standing over Nelson and he was lying on his back. A state crime scene expert, however, disputed the defense claims.
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