0

Suspected gang member guilty of murder

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Freddie Gonzales Guzman, a man police said boasted he was going to Mexico so that he would not be arrested for the shooting death of Juan Carlos Rangel Gayoso, has been convicted of two counts of murder, two counts of aggravated assault, and one count of terroristic acts.

"You sir, are a murderer," said Clayton County Assistant District Attorney Michael Thurston on Thursday, pointing at the 20-year-old man during closing arguments at the murder trial.

Guzman's sentencing hearing will be held on April 2, at 11 a.m., at the Harold R. Banke Justice Center in Jonesboro.

In December 2006, Guzman, who is allegedly a member of the Brown Side Loco gang, killed Gayoso in Hunters Ridge Mobile Home Park in Jonesboro, police testified.

Thurston built his case on surveillance photographs from a gas station, taken moments before Gayoso died, as well as the testimony of witnesses and Guzman's behavior after the murder.

"The defendant [Guzman] had the deliberate intention to unlawfully take away the life of Juan ...," Thurston said in his final arguments. "He orchestrated the events by his control" over the "occupants in the car ... There is nothing lawful about the defendant hanging out the back seat of a Yukon and firing a 9 mm handgun at another human being."

After roughly two hours of deliberations, jurors returned guilty verdicts on two counts of murder (felony and with malice aforethought), two counts of aggravated assault and one count of terroristic acts.

Guzman and Gayoso reportedly got into an argument at a gas station two miles away from the Jonesboro mobile home park. Gayoso insulted Guzman, who then followed the victim to Hunter's Ridge, police said.

Inside the mobile home park, the vehicle Guzman was riding in pulled along side the black Ford Explorer being driven by Gayoso. Guzman then fired multiple shots at Gayoso, the police investigation found. One of the shots went through the victim's shoulder, punctured his lung and severed an aortic artery, and he died, Thurston told jurors.

The key evidence used in the trial was a taped interview Clayton County Police officers conducted with a male who was allegedly in the car with Guzman during the shooting. The witness cried and expressed remorse, said Thurston. He said the witness also provided police with the gun used to kill Gayoso, and he claimed Guzman gave it to him to hide after the shooting.

Thurston also noted that police captured Guzman in Plano, Texas.

The witness told the police Guzman allegedly bragged after the shooting: "They'll never catch me ... I'm going to Mexico."

Defense attorney, Cerille B. Nassau, told jurors the case against his client was "based on lies," and called police oficers, who investigated the case, "lazy."

He claimed the gloves which Guzman allegedly wore the night Gayoso died were mismatched and appeared to be size-appropriate for children. The prosecution's star witness did not match the testimonies of other witnesses, Nassau said, and the key witness' own testimony changed multiple times in regards to who else was in the vehicle.

"The police went along with it because they were too lazy to do their job," Nassau said.

However, Thurston said he was proud of the way the police investigators did their job. During closing arguments, he defended the officers by pointing out that they tracked Guzman all the way to Texas.

"This was a very tough case for them, but they did their job and refused to give up," said Thurston after the verdict was returned by the jury.