Prosecutor: AutoZone killing a botched kidnapping by addict

October 28, 2011
photo - Edward Coffey, 47 Photo by
Edward Coffey, 47 Photo by  

Strung out on heroin, yet determined to get rent money, a Colorado Springs parolee launched a robbery plot that killed one man and left another wounded outside an auto parts store, prosecutors say.

Edward Coffey, 47, was ordered to stand trial Friday in the July 27 shooting death of Joaquin Paniagua and wounding of Don LaRoe.

Coffey – who also goes by the name Ernest Schmidt – faces 20 felony counts, including first-degree murder and kidnapping.

The kidnapping charges stem from allegations that Coffey abducted Paniagua’s friend and stole his car to get away from police.

Coffey’s wife, Dawn Morgan, and a second woman, Frani Olivas, will also stand trial on charges they helped Coffee stay on the run, 4th Judicial District Judge Scott Sells ruled at the conclusion of a shared preliminary hearing for the trio.

Both women are charged with accessory to first-degree murder.

Coffey, a career thief, was arrested Aug. 1 after a foot chase that began outside his room at the Crosslands Economy Suites near the intersection of Fountain Boulevard and Chelton Road. Colorado Springs police had the motel under surveillance.

Detectives testified that Coffey was living in motel rooms after a recent eviction and needed to come up with his half of the rent for a new place he planned to share with Morgan.

According to testimony, Coffey crawled inside the back of a Berwick Electric utility van parked outside AutoZone at Powers and Palmer Park boulevards and waited until LaRoe was finished shopping.

The plan was to abduct the 56-year-old LaRoe at gunpoint and then use a bank card to withdraw funds from an ATM, witnesses told police.

When the plan went wrong, authorities allege Coffey ended up shooting LaRoe twice before killing Paniagua, 39, a mechanic from El Salvador who family members say wanted to help LaRoe as he lay wounded in the parking lot.

Paniagua, an illegal immigrant, was working in Colorado Springs and sending money home to his wife and three children.

Morgan and Olivas are accused of lying to police about Coffey’s whereabouts and going together to a wig store to purchase a disguise for Coffey. The pair pointed fingers at each other under questioning, detectives alleged.

Coffey’s public defender, Cindy Hyatt, sought to have the murder charges dismissed Friday by arguing there was no evidence that Coffey committed a premeditated murder and no indication of a conspiracy.

Coffey is being held without bond. He is due to be arraigned Dec. 1.



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