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Bail set for suspects in slaying of Fort Lewis College student

Four men held on suspicion of first-degree murder in shooting death

The four men suspected in a home invasion and shooting early Tuesday that left a Fort Lewis College student dead were advised Wednesday of their rights and possible charges, including first-degree murder.

La Plata County Judge Martha Minot set bail for each of the four suspects at $500,000.

The 6th Judicial District Attorney’s Office is expected to file formal charges June 9.

Kodi “Maz” E. Kuauhtli, 19, of Phoenix; Alvin Noel Flores, 22, of Phoenix; Daniel Nelson Wright, 20, of Phoenix; and Kuauhtleko Garcia, 21, of Scottsdale, Arizona, are suspected of conspiring to storm into a townhome and rob Samuel Xarius Gordon of his marijuana. Gordon was shot once in the abdomen, possibly because he retrieved a flare gun during the robbery, according to police. He was taken to Mercy Regional Medical Center, where he died.

Police executed a search warrant Wednesday at Gordon’s home, 253 Jenkins Ranch Road, in the SkyRidge subdivision and found at least 10 pounds of processed marijuana and a large sum of cash, said Lt. Ray Shupe, with the Durango Police Department. He did not have more specific information about the amounts of cash and marijuana because investigators were in the house until late afternoon.

First-degree murder carries a lifetime prison sentence without the possibility of parole and possibly the death penalty. But it is unlikely the death penalty would be pursued in this case.

“I don’t see anything that points to a death penalty case,” said District Attorney Todd Risberg after Wednesday’s advisement and bond hearing.

In addition to first-degree murder, the men are being held on suspicion of felony kidnapping and aggravated robbery, each carrying a possible penalty of 10-32 years in prison under certain circumstances.

The four men appeared Wednesday in La Plata County court wearing jail-issued jumpsuits and shackles. They answered routine questions from Judge Minot about whether they understood their rights, the allegations and possible penalties.

There was one moment that went off script: One of the defendants, Wright, appeared to have gone missing. His public defender, John Moran, had been asking to speak with his client for more than an hour, he said, but law enforcement didn’t seem to know who had custody.

When it was time for his case to be called, Wright remained missing.

“To put it simply, we are demanding access to our client right this second,” Moran said in court.

A La Plata County Sheriff’s Office deputy said Wright was in Durango Police Department’s custody, but Durango police Capt. Jim Spratlen said he was being held by the Sheriff’s Office.

At that moment, Wright walked into the courtroom, apparently being escorted by a sheriff’s deputy.

Risberg asked that bail be set at $1 million for each of the suspects, saying they have no ties to the community and present a danger. All four have “very minimal” criminal history or none at all, Risberg said.

Three of the four men are suspected of entering the home while the fourth remained outside. Police have not said who stayed outside or who pulled the trigger.

Police received the call about 3:45 a.m. Tuesday.

The first officer on scene spoke briefly with the shooting victim, who said he didn’t know who would want to harm him, according to an arrest affidavit filed in La Plata County Combined Courts.

Durango Fire Protection District, which provides ambulance service, was dispatched at 3:47 a.m. The ambulance arrived at 3:56 a.m., loaded Gordon and left the scene at 4:01 and arrived at Mercy Regional Medical Center at 4:18. He died in surgery, according to his mother, Jeanette Phillips of Cortez.

According to arrest affidavits, the home invasion was planned several days in advance.

In an interview with police, Kuauhtli said he drove from Phoenix to Durango on Friday. He had phone conversations with Wright, Flores and Garcia about Gordon having a large amount of marijuana and devised a plan to rob Gordon.

The trio drove from Phoenix to Durango on Monday and met up with Kuauhtli at the Conoco gas station, located at 1991 Main Ave.

Kuauhtli said he was not in the residence when the shooting occurred, but immediately afterward, the four met at his rental car that was parked nearby.

After getting into the vehicle, one of the suspects asked, “What happened?” and Flores answered, “Don’t worry about it, just go!” according to the affidavit.

Someone sleeping on the couch told police a black man wearing a hat, red bandana and possibly sandwich bags on his hands entered the house and pointed a gun at him. The man ordered the resident to the ground, zip tied his hands behind his back and took him to the kitchen.

Two residents sleeping upstairs said an armed man wearing a bandana over his face entered the bedroom and ordered them to lie on their stomachs. A short time later, they heard a single gunshot and a second man opened the door and said, “Nick, let’s go!” according to the affidavit.

One of the residents called 911.

A police officer saw a gray sedan with Arizona plates leaving the area. The car had four occupants, and it was the only vehicle on the road, according to his report.

The officer stopped the car and identified the driver as Kuauhtli, a former Fort Lewis College student who was possibly an acquaintance with Gordon and knew he had a “large amount” of marijuana, according to police.

A red bandana and a black handgun were in plain sight inside the car, according to the affidavit.

In other developments:

Two handguns were recovered from the getaway vehicle, including a 9 mm and a .40 caliber.A resident found a gun clip and sweat pants or a sweat shirt Tuesday night near a trailhead close to the crime scene that is believed to be linked with the suspects.Police located a second vehicle associated with the suspects and planned to execute a search warrant Wednesday.For the most part, the suspects have been fairly uncooperative, said Ray Shupe, spokesman with the Durango Police Department.

“We haven’t gained a lot of information from the suspects themselves,” he said.

shane@durangoherald.com

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