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Utah State Prison
Yelfris Sosa-Hurtado

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Court of Appeals upheld a conviction Thursday for a man serving a life sentence in prison for gunning down a man in a Salt Lake smoke shop.

Yelfris Sosa-Hurtado, 31, was found guilty of aggravated murder, a first-degree felony, in the death of 26-year-old Steven Guadalupe Chavez. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Sosa-Hurtado appealed the conviction, arguing against prosecutors' stance that the shooting was an aggravated crime because, as he fired repeatedly at Chavez, Sosa-Hurtado also "knowingly created a great risk of death" to Chavez's father, Isabel Chavez.

A prison sentence of life without parole is only available in the state of Utah for an aggravated murder conviction, not for murder.

Sosa-Hurtado was accused of getting into a fistfight with Steven Chavez at CJ's Smoke Shop, 876 W. 800 South, on March 14, 2012, when Isabel Chavez asked Sosa-Hurtado to move a vehicle that was blocking parking spots at the store and Sosa-Hurtado refused.

After the fight, Sosa-Hurtado left the store and returned later with a gun. He fired one shot at Isabel Chavez, narrowly missing him but sending splintered wood and glass from the shop's counter into his leg, according to the court's ruling.

Sosa-Hurtado then moved in and shot Steven Chavez three times at close range, and while Chavez's father was not in the path of the bullets, he was close enough he felt the "muzzle blast" from Sosa-Hurtado's rifle, the ruling states.

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The Court of Appeals denied Sosa-Hurtado's argument, noting that the fact that Sosa-Hurtado fired at Isabel Chavez mere seconds before turning and killing Steven Chavez, along with Isabel Chavez's close proximity as his son was murdered, are sufficient evidence that the father's life was in danger.

Additionally, Sosa-Hurtado's appeal claimed that the district court wrongfully denied his motion for a mistrial as well as motions for a new trial that he filed after he was convicted. The Court of Appeals denied those claims.