VERNAL — A Duchesne County man has admitted to fatally shooting one man and wounding another during a 2011 confrontation that was apparently sparked by his belief that one of them was responsible for vandalizing his car.
Bruce Silva pleaded guilty Wednesday in 8th District Court to murder, first-degree felony, and aggravated assault, a second-degree felony.
Prosecutors had initially charged Silva with criminal homicide and attempted aggravated murder, both first-degree felonies, three counts of aggravated assault, a second-degree felony, possession of a weapon by a restricted person, a second-degree felony, and three counts of committing a violent offense in the presence of a child, a class B misdemeanor.
Uintah County Attorney G. Mark Thomas said he is confident a jury would have convicted Silva on all counts, but made the plea offer after consulting with the survivors and the family of murder victim James Edward Carey.
"(The plea bargain) provides that they don't have to go through the trial process in this particular defendant's case," Thomas said.
"We don't gain a lot with additional charges when it comes to penalties," he added.
Silva, 24, asked to be sentenced immediately after entering his pleas. He was ordered to serve 15 years to life in prison for the murder charge and one to 15 years in prison for the aggravated assault charge. The sentences will run consecutively.
Silva also pleaded guilty to an unrelated misdemeanor drug charge and was sentenced to serve one year in jail concurrent with the prison time.
"He was remorseful," defense attorney Loni DeLand said. "He apologized to the victim's family and to his own family."
Silva shot and killed Carey, 25, and wounded Jared Hurley, 35, during a confrontation outside a Uintah County home on June 18, 2011.
Investigators say Teaunna Cesspooch drove Silva, his girlfriend, three of his brothers, and two other people to and from the home on the night of the shooting, and had possession of the .380-caliber handgun that was used.
In her interview with FBI agent Travis Lemon, Cesspooch claimed Carey had vandalized Silva's car on the day of the shooting, breaking out the vehicle's window. She told Lemon that after the vandalism, Silva's girlfriend, Shadow Reed, began receiving a stream of text messages "challenging (Silva) to fight."
In response to the taunts, a group of people headed to the home where they believed Carey was, Cesspooch told Lemon. Silva and three of his brothers — Adrian Silva, Alberto Silva Jr. and Kevin Silva — had baseball bats, she said. Another member of the group, Colin Rian Manning, had given her a .380-caliber handgun, which he later took from her when the group reached its destination.
Manning told an FBI agent after the incident that Silva grabbed the gun from him and fired it at the people who had come out of the home. His account was supported by Carey's brother, Terry Carey, who spoke to a Uintah County sheriff's deputy in a recorded interview about 20 minutes after the shooting.
In court records, Silva wrote that he only fired at the people outside the home because he wanted to frighten them, said Thomas, who was critical of Silva's claim.
"I think this shows that he lacks the courage to stand up and say what he really did," the prosecutor said. "He's the one who instigated this … and I believe his conduct was illegal and cowardly."
Silva's brothers, Reed and Cesspooch each face murder and other felony charges in connection with the slaying. Prosecutors have offered all five defendants plea bargains, which were contingent on Silva pleading guilty Wednesday, DeLand said.
The charges against Manning were filed in federal court because he is an enrolled member of an American Indian tribe, and the shooting occurred within the boundaries of the Uintah-Ouray Indian Reservation.
Manning was indicted in November 2011 on charges of murder in the second degree while within Indian Country and aiding and abetting, assault causing serious bodily injury while within Indian Country and aiding and abetting, and use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.
A five-day jury trial is set to begin Sept. 10. Federal prosecutors would not comment on whether Silva's guilty plea will affect the case against Manning.
Silva is expected to make an appearance in federal court as well, where prosecutors are attempting to have his supervised release terminated and have him returned to federal prison.
Silva is on supervised release after serving federal prison time for the March 2007 gang-related shooting of Quincy Uncasam on the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation. Uncasam survived the shooting.
Also, in 2010, while Silva was being kept in a holding cell at the Frank E. Moss United States Courthouse in Salt Lake City, he assaulted another prisoner. He pleaded guilty to assault and was sentenced to another six months in federal prison and another year on probation.
A date for Silva's next federal court hearing has not been set. DeLand said he expects Silva to serve three to four years in federal prison if his supervised release is revoked.