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Homicide, graffiti have Moab Latino community on edge

By Geoff Liesik | Posted - May 7th, 2013 @ 9:44pm


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MOAB — The March 25 shooting death of Gregorio Campos already had Moab's Latino community on edge. Then a hate-filled message showed up on a fence last week, and that only made things worse.

The three people charged in the homicide were in court Tuesday. Detectives say Charles Nelson, 16, shot Gregorio Campos three times in the head at the urging of his friend Brody Kruckenberg, also 16. Both teens have been charged as adults with murder and obstructing justice.

Kruckenberg's mother, Corina Yardley, is also charged with obstructing justice. Authorities say she helped the boys cover up the killing.

The case has led to racial tensions that Campos' family and others are trying to ease.

With the help of an interpreter, Rocio Salazar described her emotions after learning of her brother's death.

"My heart was broken. Everything else fell down," Salazar said.

Authorities pulled Campos' body from the Colorado River in early April after they arrested Brody Kruckenburg and Charles Tony Nelson. Investigators say Nelson told a friend no one would miss Campos because he was in the country illegally.

That comment scared Campos' family and others in the Latino community, and they met with Grand County Sheriff Steven White to address their concerns.

"If they hear anything or see anything, we're asking them that they notify us so we can follow up," White said. "A lot of it's just rumor mill, but we want to make sure we stay ahead of it because we want to make sure everybody's safe and everybody feels safe.

But a fence full of graffiti that apparently referenced the Mexican Mafia and drug cartels, and threatened death to all Mexicans, eroded that sense of safety last week.

"We're still mourning losing our brother, and they're posting this kind of graffiti," Salazar said.

The sheriff wouldn't talk about a motive for the killing, but a request to seal the search warrant served on the trailer home where Campos was killed said investigators have received reports of drug trafficking with connections to violent groups.

Campos' family said he was never involved in dealing drugs.

"Now that he's gone, they are saying that because he cannot defend himself," said Jesus Herrera, Campos' nephew.

Campos' sister said she's heard the rumors too, but she doesn't want people in Moab to live in fear of one another.

"I would like to tell the community: Do not be afraid of us, because we are not going to hurt anybody," Salazar said.

Moab police are still trying to figure out who put that graffiti on that fence. The chief says anybody who has information about a crime, racially motivated or otherwise in this community, should talk to him, one of his officers, or even call an anonymous tip line.

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