The Republic public safety reporter Megan Cassidy helps clarify some of the persistent confusion related to murders that took place in Yuma in 2005.
A Yuma man convicted of murdering six people in 2005 was sentenced to death on Friday by a 12-person jury.
Preston Strong, 50, was found guilty on April 25 of murdering his best friend, Luis Rios; Rios’ girlfriend, Adrienne Heredia; and Heredia’s four children, 13-year-old Andreas Crawford, 12-year-old Enrique Bedoya, 9-year-old Inez Newman and 6-year-old Danny Heredia III.
The jury began deliberating on Strong’s sentence Friday morning after hearing closing arguments in the sentencing phase of the proceedings, according to a Yuma County Superior Court official. Those on the panel returned with their verdict Friday afternoon.
The sentence caps three months of proceedings in which prosecutors argued that Strong targeted his best friend out of greed and jealousy. The killer spent hours in the La Mesa Street home on June 24, 2005, asphyxiating four of the victims and shooting Rios and the youngest boy.
Prosecutors said Strong’s alibi was unreliable, his DNA was found in suspicious locations at the crime scene, and his phone records showed dark areas that coincided with when the family was arriving home. They said Strong had become accustomed to borrowing money from Rios, and Rios may have been cutting off his supply.
Defense attorneys argued that Strong’s DNA could be explained by his presence in Rios’ life, and pointed to an ex-girlfriend who testified they were together for at least an hour when the killer was inside the home.
Some witnesses initially had described a man leaving the home who looked nothing like Strong. The man was described as short, stocky and Hispanic, while Strong is 6 feet tall and black.
Strong maintained his innocence throughout the trial but did not take the stand in his own defense. His testimony could have opened the door to cross-examinations about his criminal history.
It took nine years to make an arrest in the La Mesa Street murders in Yuma, Arizona. Here’s what you need to know about the killing of a mother, her four children and her boyfriend in June 2005.
Strong is already serving a life sentence in prison after being convicted of the 2007 murder of Yuma physician Satinder Gill.
Police noticed similarities in the cases.
In both, the murderer remained inside the home for hours and seemingly forced the victims to make strange phone calls. Gill, like four of the La Mesa Street victims, died from suffocation. The motive for both cases seemed to be money. And Strong, at least peripherally, knew all of the victims.
A large amount of money had been stolen from Gill on the day of his murder, and Strong could not explain how he had obtained thousands of dollars in cash that he distributed the next day.
However, none of Strong’s DNA was found at Gill’s home and no eyewitnesses placed him at the scene.
Read or Share this story: http://azc.cc/2p6ic0n