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Death penalty considered for two suspects in Coronado High students' slayings

April 16, 2018 Updated: April 17, 2018 at 12:54 pm
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Derek Greer, left, and Natalie Partida.

Prosecutors are considering whether to pursue the death penalty against two Colorado Springs men accused of pulling the trigger during the executions of a pair of Coronado high school students shot at close range over a gang rivalry.

Prosecutor Jim Bentley said the District Attorney's Office hasn't ruled out death penalty bids against first-degree murder suspects Diego Chacon, 19, and Marco Garcia-Bravo, 22.

Bentley made his announcement after defense attorneys requested a postponement in court, saying he could use more time for "continuing due diligence regarding the penalty phase."

Fourth Judicial District Judge Larry E. Schwartz agreed to postpone the men's arraignments until May 7. If the men plead not guilty, prosecutors would have 63 days to file notice of a capital case under Colorado law. Bentley did not comment further about ongoing deliberations.

Garcia-Bravo and Chacon are among 10 people charged in a conspiracy that culminated in the March 2017 abductions and shootings of Derek Greer, 15, and Natalie Cano-Partida, 16. Authorities say Cano-Partida was marked for death because she was suspected of furnishing information to the defendants' gang rivals. Greer was killed for being with her, they say.

Their deaths came on the side of Old Pueblo Road near the Pikes Peak International Raceway outside of Fountain. After a harrowing drive with their captors, the high school students were forced at gunpoint into "execution position," an investigator said in an arrest affidavit detailing the crime.

A co-defendant, Gustavo Marquez, told investigators that Chacon, armed with a pistol, fired two shots at Cano-Partida, possibly while her hands were on her head.

Chacon then handed the gun to Garcia-Bravo, who fired on Greer a moment later, causing the teen to topple forward with his hands still in his sweatshirt pockets.

"Mr. Marquez said Mr. Garcia-Bravo fired multiple shots to include shooting after he fell to the ground," an investigator wrote in an arrest affidavit.

The potential for a death penalty bid comes as El Paso County is in the midst of its first death penalty case in a decade - that of Glen Law Galloway, who is charged in a double killing that targeted a homeless man and a woman Galloway had been convicted of stalking.

That case has been tied up in jury selection for more than a month and is expected to begin with opening statements in mid-May, in a courtroom that received $50,000 for audio-visual upgrades and a jury box enlargement in order to host the monthslong trial.

In the teens' slayings, five people were charged with first-degree murder. Monday's announcement comes days after prosecutors cut plea deals for two of them - contingent on their agreement to testify.

Joseph Rodriguez Jr., 19, pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree kidnapping, making him eligible for 16 to 32 years in prison. Gustavo Antonio Marquez, 20, pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder, with a potential prison sentence of 32 to 38 years.

Alexandra Romero, 22, also charged with first-degree murder, will be arraigned April 30.

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