A Colorado Springs man’s text message announcing he was “about to dome” someone could decide if he's convicted in a 2018 double-homicide in which a man and a woman were shot in the head before their bodies were set on fire.
An El Paso County jury will begin deliberations Wednesday at the trial of 21-year-old Nashid Rivers, who is accused of serving as the triggerman in the drug-heist killings of Serena Garcia, 21, and Marcus Denton, 20, on the city’s southwest side. Their bodies were found inside a Toyota Camry left burning near the Bear Creek Dog Park, the result of an alleged plot by Rivers and another man to steal up to a pound of marijuana from Denton.
Denton was shot four times, and Garcia twice, both at close range, according to testimony at the two-week trial.
The jury received the case shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday. Fourth Judicial District Judge Frances Johnson decided to adjourn for the day and resume at 9 a.m. Rivers, who is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder plus aggravated robbery, tampering with a body and other charges, faces a life term in prison without parole if convicted.
During closing arguments, prosecutor Grant Libby said the most compelling evidence against Rivers were his own words — text messages he sent a co-defendant, Marquis Hazard, as they allegedly hashed out a plan for Rivers to ambush Denton during a drug deal, and for Hazard to serve as Rivers’ getaway driver.
“I’m about to dome him and get up out of here,” Libby said in recounting one text message, before adding in a raised voice: “And that’s exactly what he did!”
Rivers' phone was found at the scene of the killings, allegedly dropped in his haste to get away after burning himself in the fire he had set, authorities said. Hazard and his girlfriend had to return to the scene to collect the marijuana, authorities said.
Prosecutors say evidence established Rivers suffered burns on his body around the time of the killings, and that the weapon used — a 9 mm Ruger that smelled of gasoline, the accelerant used to spark the blaze — was found inside his home during a police search.
Prosecutors also played an audio recording captured by Rivers' brother in which the defendant allegedly admits partial involvement, acknowledging that he poured gasoline. He also fails to deny his brother's accusation that he committed the killings, according to the prosecution. Rivers' brother — a longtime friend of Denton — provided the recording to police, according to court documents.
Garcia wasn’t an intended target, authorities said. She had driven from Parker to help Denton after his car had slid off a snowy road in Colorado Springs, and she ended up accompanying him to a meet-up at which Denton was to sell marijuana, allegedly to Rivers.
Attorneys for Rivers accused Colorado Springs police of botching their investigation, leaving prosecutors to fill in gaps with innuendo, including by distorting the meaning of his text message about “doming” someone.
Instead of referring to shooting someone in the head, as prosecutors alleged, it was actually a reference to the videogame Fortnite, a favorite pastime for Rivers, according to attorney Josh Tolini, who provided alternate explanations for key evidence.
Tolini argued that Rivers lent his gun to Hazard before the killings — a claim prosecutors dismissed as a "fairy tale" unsupported by the evidence — and tried to focus the jury’s attention on a message that Hazard posted on social media before the murders, in which the defense's alternate suspect allegedly declared, “I’m about to get a pound.”
"If you want to rob a weed dealer, make it look like somebody else,” Tolini said.
If Rivers is guilty of anything, Tolini added, it’s setting fire to the bodies and hiding evidence under threat from Hazard, whom he said the defendant fears.
Prosecutors said evidence linking Rivers to the shootings was "powerful" and "conclusive."
Hazard, 22, is likewise charged with first-degree murder, accused of helping to plot and cover up the deadly robbery. His trial is scheduled in September.
The woman identified as Hazard's then-girlfriend, Shailynn Ryles, 21, has pleaded guilty to accessory to murder and is set to be sentenced by Johnson on June 18, court records show.