Updated: July 8, 2010 at 12:00 am
A jury Thursday found an alleged neo-Nazi recruit guilty of first-degree murder and attempted robbery for killing a Colorado Springs restaurant manager in what prosecutors called “a random act of violence.”
After three days of deliberation, the 10-woman, two-man jury returned a guilty verdict against Kandin Eric Wilson for the Sept. 27 shooting of Susana Pelayo-Perez.
Pelayo-Perez, a 35-year-old mother of four and the manager of a La Casita restaurant, was fatally wounded by a single hollow point .40-caliber bullet while she sat in an friend’s SUV in the parking lot of the Shannon Glen apartments on the 200 block of Murray Boulevard.
For a moment as the verdict was read, Wilson glanced up at the ceiling and then back at the audience when 4th Judicial District Judge David L. Shakes read “not guilty” on the first count of murder with extreme indifference. But then followed the charge of first-degree felony murder while committing a robbery — guilty. Attempted aggravated robbery — guilty. Attempted robbery — guilty.
Eugene Wilson — who stood outside the courtroom every day of the nearly three-week trial — sat behind his son clutching a tissue in one hand as the verdict was read.
“I’m devastated by it,’” he said later. “I really don’t have much else to say.”
Pelayo-Perez’ oldest daughter and other relatives left the courtroom without comment.
Wilson, 29, faces a mandatory life sentence without parole. He could also get additional prison time if Shakes finds him guilty of being a habitual criminal for three prior felonies. A sentencing date will be set next week.
Jury foreman Jeff Bubar said it was not an easy verdict. The case was unlike television dramas that get solved with scientific evidence, he said. This one hinged on subjective measures such as credibility of accomplice-turned-prosecution witness or the ability of the victim’s boyfriend to identify Wilson as the gunman.
“We had to rely a lot on our personal experience,” he said. “We added it all up and came to our verdict. It was not easy for any of us.”
During the trial, witnesses testified about Wilson’s role as a “prospect” in the American Nazi Party.
But in the end, Senior Deputy District Attorney Jeff Lindsey said the murder was a random act of violence and a crime of opportunity.
For more on this case, visit “The Sidebar” blog.