A 23-year-old man accused of double-murder in the alleged gang assassinations of two Coronado High School teens in 2017 will not take the stand, he said in court Thursday as his roughly four-month trial neared its conclusion.

Fourth Judicial District Judge David A. Shakes told the jury that closing arguments in the case against Marco Garcia-Bravo would start at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, lasting up to six hours. Deliberations will begin afterward.

“Please don’t do anything that could get you infected during the final phase of this case, or anything else that would prevent you from being here to do your duty next week,” Shakes told the panel, thanking them for what he called their “extraordinary dedication.”

Jury selection began in mid-September, the official start of a trial that survived repeated delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Garcia-Bravo, 23, exercised his right not to testify shortly before the defense rested. Attorneys for the defendant put on witnesses Wednesday and Thursday, well shy of previous estimates their case would last five to six days. The prosecution rested Wednesday morning.

The defendant is charged with first-degree murder in the March 2017 killings of Natalie Cano-Partida, 16, and Derek Greer, 15. The two were abducted from a party in Colorado Springs, driven to a remote location outside Fountain and made to kneel for execution-style killings, allegedly committed by a pair of gunmen including the defendant.

Authorities say the killings were planned by a gang called the South Side Soldados, which suspected Cano-Partida had conspired with rival gang members involved in shootings at two apartment buildings associated with the loose-knit Soldados. Greer was killed because he happened to be with Cano-Partida, his friend, on the night they were taken at gunpoint, they alleged.

Ten people were arrested in the case, five of them charged with first-degree murder on allegations they played direct roles in the deadly abduction. Garcia-Bravo is the last of the group to be prosecuted.

If convicted of the top charges against him, Garcia-Bravo faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Prosecutors initially prepared to pursue the death penalty against him, but withdrew their bid in April, a month after Gov. Jared Polis signed a repeal bill that eliminated the death penalty for new cases filed July 1 and later.

The trial was at risk of imploding at several points amid concerns over coronavirus exposures to various court players.

Shakes paused the proceedings for two weeks in November after telling the panel there had been an unspecified exposure in the courtroom. Two other delays came after jurors awaited testing for coronavirus because of family exposure.

Another potential stumbling block came when a key witness, co-defendant Alexandra Romero, contracted COVID-19 during a record-setting coronavirus outbreak at the El Paso County jail beginning in October. Shakes ordered Romero to testify despite her attorney’s complaints that Romero appeared symptomatic and could be a threat to people in court. The judge said he had consulted with county health officials, who approved the woman’s testimony.

Shakes impaneled four alternate jurors to allow the trial to continue should any members of the 12-person panel be unable to complete their service. Two alternates were dismissed because of health concerns, both in December, leaving two others to step in if further problems develop.

The Garcia-Bravo case was the county’s sole exception to a regional jury trial ban implemented in late November after a countywide-surge in coronavirus infections. It was convened with a range of safety precautions, including mandatory masks and social distancing.

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