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Murder suspect's trial the least of his worries

Russell Shields

KINGMAN - Already faced with the certain knowledge he will spend at least the next 10 years behind bars as a marked man, there is no light at the end of the tunnel for convicted Kingman drug dealer and accused murderer Russell Shields.

Late last week, Shields learned his oft-delayed trial will begin Oct. 28 on charges that he shot and killed Alberto Orozco nearly two years ago in a robbery that yielded $400.

Prosecutor Doug Camacho and defense attorney Christian Ackerley have filed court documents regarding the trial, which has been delayed several times.

Camacho wants to show there were aggravating circumstances related to Orozco's murder, including the fact Shields has seven prior felony convictions that date back to 1996. Five of those felonies occurred in Florida and were related to thefts.

The two latest convictions occurred in Mohave County and are related to the possession and sale of methamphetamine. The first Arizona conviction was handed down in February and the second earlier this month and yielded Shields a 10-year-term without the possibility of early parole.

Ackerley wants Judge Derek Carlisle to allow the defense to have a polygraph expert examine Shields at the expense of the state and seeks to compel prosecutors to release additional evidence to him.

The evidence in question is a purported interview conducted by Mohave County-based detective Justin Stergill and Phoenix Police Department detective John Shallue at a Phoenix jail on Aug. 18, 2011.

At that interview, a jail inmate named Rodrigo Cruz-Ortiz was questioned about the murder. While Shields' co-defendant John Patric Langan told police Cruz-Ortiz was present, Ackerley doesn't address what Cruz-Ortiz had to say or if it could help his client's case.

The recording is missing and at least one Kingman Police detective, Dennis Gilbert, who interviewed Langan on Aug. 16, 2011 and was told Cruz-Ortiz was there, insists the Cruz-Ortiz interview was recorded.

The Mohave County Attorney's Office continues its attempts to locate the transcript, if it exists.

The push for a polygraph examiner dates back to when Shields and Langan were arrested in late summer 2011.

Shields readily agreed to take a polygraph, but the KPD never arranged for one to be conducted.

While such examinations generally are not admissible in a court of law, Ackerley cites one Arizona case in which a judge allowed polygraph results into evidence. The test will come into play if Shields takes the stand to testify in his own defense and the state attacks his credibility.

In July 2011, Shields allegedly shot Orozco for $400. Whether that money was a debt the victim owed Shields or a plain robbery has never been established in any of the court hearings.

Langan said he was present at Shields' Apache Street home as "protection" and said he was in the bathroom when Orozco was killed.

Langan emptied the man's pockets, placed the body in the victim's car, and abandoned it on a Kingman street.

Carlisle set aside three weeks to hear the case. Regardless of the outcome of his first-degree murder trial, Shields' safety is already in jeopardy.

At his June 5 sentencing hearing on drug charges, he asked Carlisle to keep him in the custody of the Mohave County jail until the murder trial is over and to order prison officials to place him in protective custody once he gets there.

Carlisle agreed to the request.

At that hearing, Shields told Carlisle that he has a reputation as a snitch and his life would be in jeopardy if he were placed in general population.

He also has to worry about Langan, who implied he would harm Shields at his sentencing hearing May 10, telling the victim's family he had nothing to do with the killing.

"I don't care if it takes 10 or 20 years for him to get out," Langan said. "I'll make it right."

Originally charged with murder along with Shields, Langan took a plea bargain for the much less serious charge of hindering prosecution in the first degree. Judge Steven Conn sentenced him to nearly 9 years in prison.

Langan, 33, and Shields, 43, reportedly turned on each other after their respective arrests, each pinning Orozco's killing on the other.

Langan said his "penitentiary cred" was damaged by the case, telling members of Orozco's family as he was taken to jail following the emotional hearing:

"I'm known as a snitch now, and I'll make this right."

Orozco is not the only Kingmanite police believe was shot by Shields. Earlier in 2011, a witness told police Shields fired a bullet into a man's stomach, reportedly over a drug debt.

The victim refused to identify the shooter and charges were never filed.

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