Man at scene of Kingman murder may testify Tuesday
KINGMAN - The defense attorney for alleged murderer Russell Shields told jurors in his client's murder trial that another man was guilty of killing Alberto Orozco sometime after midnight on July 18, 2011.
That man, John Langan, is expected to testify on Tuesday and when he does, said attorney Christian Ackerley, jurors will have no doubt who killed Orozco.
"You will hear statements from him that will lead you to the inescapable conclusion that John Langan is the killer."
Langan and Shields were arrested in the weeks after Orozco's body was discovered slumped over in his car on a Kingman street.
Orozco was shot with a single round fired from a .380-caliber semiautomatic pistol. He was killed somewhere in Shields' Apache Street home, most likely the garage. He had money on him before he was shot and had no money on him after his body was found.
Those are the only facts not in dispute. Whether Shields or Langan pulled the trigger is ultimately up for the jury to decide, but why Orozco was killed might never be known.
Was it a crime of passion? A botched execution carried out at the behest of a Mexican drug cartel? A tragic accident?
Testimony from lay witnesses - people who knew the three men and spent time with them in the hours immediately before and after the killing - has been mixed.
Nobody's testimony was more thoroughly impeached than that delivered by Shields' girlfriend, Danielle Burgh, who testified earlier last week when prosecutor Doug Camacho called her to testify for the state.
She was Ackerley's first witness when he began his defense of Shields on Friday.
Ackerley attempted to remedy some of the contradictory testimony she offered earlier with limited success.
Her story still didn't mesh with what jurors just heard Shields tell detectives in interviews and other parts of her accounting of that night changed yet again.
For instance, Burgh was supposed to follow police from her home on Apache Street to the station for an interview. She didn't arrive for at least 35 minutes.
On Tuesday she said she was late because she had to change her clothes. On Friday, under questioning from Ackerley, she said she had to explain to her then-5-year-old son why she was going to the police station and that she needed to compose herself before speaking with police.
She denied Shields coached her on what to say.
She said Langan lived with them on Apache Street for about five or six months until the killing. She said he stole her laptop and Shields' stereo equipment. She said he carried a silver .380 pistol.
She also said "they" told her they chopped up the pistol that was used to shoot Orozco. Later, when Camacho asked her what she meant by they, she said she misspoke.
She said she and Shields had only two phones, but Shields in recorded interviews with police said he carries two phones and she has a third.
She said when Shields and Langan returned to a party the night of the killing after being gone for at least 45 minutes that Shields arrived alone in his car and Langan came running up, sweating heavily and out of breath.
That was Shields' story for weeks, until after his arrest when he first admitted he and Langan arrived together in his car. He even told police he picked up Langan after the man abandoned Orozco's body on a nearby street.
She said she was afraid of Langan, though she acknowledged he never personally threatened her and only knew about alleged threats because Shields told her they were made.
She also admitted she never reported the alleged thefts to police, or sought a protective order that would bar him from her home.
James Duncan was the last man to see Orozco alive other than Shields and Langan. He told jurors "Beto" was a good friend who "sometimes" sold drugs.
He said he knew Orozco had money the night he died and that he was going to get more methamphetamine to sell at a home on the "other side of the tracks."
He headed from the Motel 6 to Apache Street, which is across the railroad tracks and situated behind Kmart.
He said Orozco did not appear to be nervous that night, and he spoke fondly of his friend.
"He was going to chef school," said Duncan. "He was a very generous person, very kindhearted."
While Duncan said Orozco was a fun-loving person and not at all violent, he admitted Orozco was "too kindhearted" to collect drug debts. He never "taxed" those who owed him money. Taxing is drug slang. It means people who owe money for drugs get beat up as a form of tax.
Duncan was not aware somebody allegedly pistol-whipped Orozco a couple of days before he was killed, and he said he did not recognize any of the names of alleged drug suppliers Ackerley named.
Larry Ellis, whose testimony began the trial Monday, told jurors when called by Ackerley that he never purchased drugs from Orozco and he didn't recall telling police that Orozco was his supplier.
He said the men were very close friends who went to school together. He testified Langan, like Shields, carried a .380 pistol.
He was aware police raided Orozco's Kingman home in January 2011 and seized more than 50 grams of meth and about $10,000 in cash.
According to Ackerley, that lost dope and money could have been the motive for someone to kill Orozco.
Ellis also said Shields went to him after police questioned him the day of the murder and told him "we have to get our stories straight."
Ellis said he had no idea what Shields meant, but that Danielle Burgh was present at the time - something she denied under questioning from her boyfriend's attorney.
Testimony resumes Tuesday when Ackerley will call to the stand a handful of detectives and Langan, whom he promised jurors would reveal himself as the killer.
The case could go to the jury by the end of the day Tuesday or by Wednesday at the latest.
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