By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
The crowded Curry County courtroom was stone silent Friday as Judge Teddy Hartley read the verdict: Edward Salas is guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of 10-year-old Carlos Perez.
In the audience, Lisa Salas rocked rhythmically in her seat, her husband Lolo Salas stared straight ahead, their faces frozen after learning their son would spend at least the next 30 years in prison. As the words sunk in, members of the Salas family began sniffling and sobbing.
Across the courtroom, Perez’ family sat in silence.
After the jury was dismissed, officers stepped forward and handcuffed the 23-year-old Salas, the fourth to be convicted in the September 2005 shooting. As his hands were secured behind his back, Salas looked over his shoulder at his parents, his face forlorn but otherwise emotionless.
Two of Edward Salas’ brothers, Orlando and Demetrio, were convicted in the shooting in earlier trials.
The Perez family declined comment following the conviction.
Handed the case about noon, jurors deliberated for almost four hours.
District Attorney Matt Chandler, who spoke on their behalf, said the family is pleased to have the trial behind them.
“This is one step closer to closure for them,” he said. “These verdicts certainly don’t bring back what they have lost but it does prove to them that there is justice in the court system.”
Edward Salas was also found guilty of the attempted murder of Ruben Perez, the victim’s brother, shooting at a dwelling or occupied building, one count of bribery or intimidation of a witness, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and conspiracy to shooting at a dwelling or occupied building.
He was acquitted of one count of bribery or intimidation of a witness related to threats prosecutors said he made against Krystal Anson, a witness in the case.
A fifth suspect, Noe Torres, remains at large. Officials have said they believe he fled to Mexico after the shooting.
Prosecutors have said Demetrio and Edward Salas, David Griego and Torres met outside the window of Carlos Perez’ Clovis apartment on Sept. 15.
It was their intention, prosecutors said, to shoot Ruben Perez, the victim’s older brother, in retaliation for an altercation he had early in the day at school with Orlando, the youngest Salas brother.
Demetrio Salas, they said, fired nine shots through the window.
One bullet struck the fifth-grader in the forehead as he slept next to his older brother. He died the next day at a Lubbock hospital.
A sentencing hearing will be held for Edward Salas in the next 30 days after a pre-sentence report is completed, Chandler said.