A jury deliberated for less than three hours before convicting a Colorado Springs man of robbery and first-degree murder in the July stomping death of an east-side auto repair shop owner.
Eric William Grant, 39, was found guilty of delivering the fatal blow in the slaying of Full Throttle Auto Service owner George Maldonado Jr. - a stomp to the incapacitated man's head after he and a customer were tied up and beaten by two robbers posing as Colorado Springs Utilities workers.
Maldonado, a married father of four, was on the floor with his arms tied behind his back and did nothing to provoke the attack, authorities say.
Grant, who fled to Philadelphia afterward, will receive an automatic life term in prison at a sentencing scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Thursday. His penalty will be imposed by 4th Judicial District Judge Barbara A. Hughes.
"My brother finally got justice," said a tearful Theresa Maldonado, who gasped when the verdicts were announced. She later joined family members in the hallway, where they exchanged embraces and praised the prosecution team.
A seven-man, five-woman panel convicted Grant of five of six counts, including armed assault. The panel acquitted Grant of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, rejecting allegations that he planned to kill before entering the shop at 305 N. Chelton Road.
Prosecutor Nathaniel Marsh credited the speedy deliberations to a thorough investigation by Colorado Springs police, who presented surveillance footage of the deadly blow inflicted by Grant, who stomped on Maldonado's head in what authorities described as a vicious afterthought.
"I think they were convinced by the evidence that we put on," Marsh said of the panel.
Attorneys for Grant said his arrest was a case of mistaken identity, telling jurors that police grabbed the "wrong bearded black man" in the wake of Maldonado's killing.
They say the shop's surveillance video shows that the killer had no tattoos on his arms though Grant's shoulders are emblazoned with tattoos.
"Obviously, we're disappointed," said attorney Jennifer Stock, who argued the case alongside Cynthia McKedy. "Mr. Grant intends to file an appeal."
Opening statements at Grant's trial were May 31, and the panel heard closing arguments Monday afternoon. A second man, Derrick Davis, 59, is to be tried separately in August, also for first-degree murder.
Family members said the verdict brought relief, but it won't bring back Maldonado.
"He was just the best man I ever knew," said daughter Katrina Maldonado. "You could talk to him about anything. He was always there for us."
His mother, Martha Maldonado, said Maldonado's loved ones are seeking comfort in family.
"It's hard to get up in the morning," Martha Maldonado said. "I just have pictures and memories - some good ones."