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Fatal Midvale shooting was due to drug dispute, witnesses say

By Emiley Morgan | Posted - Jul 1st, 2013 @ 7:47pm

WEST JORDAN — Gabriel Gurule wasn't supposed to have had a gun the night he and his friends decided to try to rob Justen LeFave, witnesses said.

And after LeFave was shot and killed Aug. 26, Gurule told two friends that he never meant to fire the weapon, according to testimony from two witnesses who took the stand Monday in 3rd District Court.

Gurule, 34, has been charged with murder, aggravated robbery and obstructing justice, all first-degree felonies; and possession of a dangerous weapon, a third-degree felony, in connection with LeFave's death.

Three others also charged in the 31-year-old's death testified of the evidence against Gurule during a hearing that continues through Tuesday.

Abegail Jennings said LeFave was a friend she met while living at the Wasatch Club Apartments, 6999 S. State. Jennings said she had seen marijuana in a safe at LeFave's home and mentioned the drugs to Gurule, her then-boyfriend, after Gurule said he needed money.

Jennings said Gurule decided they should take the drugs, and he bought her a phone that she was to take to LeFave's apartment. The plan was for Jennings to hang out with LeFave until he fell asleep, and then Gurule would enter the apartment and take the money, she said.

Jennings said that if LeFave woke up or resisted, Gurule said he would tie him up. On Aug. 24, she went to LeFave's apartment, but between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., LeFave never fell asleep, she said.

"(Gurule) was upset," Jennings testified. "Gabe told me he was mad … that I had never called and that Justen never went to sleep and that the plan did not work."

Gurule asked her to move out of the apartment they had been sharing. But Jennings had already mentioned LeFave to Amy Rowley, who frequented the apartment the couple had shared, and Alexis Hughes, who lived there as the girlfriend of Gurule's friend, Anthony Martinez.

Both Rowley and Hughes said Jennings mentioned having a friend who had marijuana. Rowley said Jennings introduced the topic as a robbery opportunity.


"She told me if there was any place I wanted to jack, that she knew of a place in Wasatch Club Apartments that had marijuana and money," Rowley said, adding that she had not been interested in robbing anyone.

Martinez said Gurule mentioned Jennings' friend from Wasatch Club Apartments who had three pounds of "high-grade" marijuana and $2,000 to $3,000 in cash at his home. Still, Martinez said that when he drove Rowley and Hughes to LeFave's apartment on Aug. 26, he thought it was to buy marijuana.

"We were just going to buy some for use, just a small amount," he said. "Gabriel and (another man) were supposed to pretty much just strong-arm the guy, Justen LeFave. They weren't supposed to go in with any weapons or anything."

Hughes said it was her understanding, though, that a robbery would take place. She and Rowley were supposed to get LeFave to open the door, she said.

"Two pretty girls at the door just to get the guy to open the door," Hughes explained. "To my understanding, I thought we were going to come into the house, then I thought (the other man) and Gabe would come in and try to do a robbery, or do a robbery."

Hughes said she didn't expect that Gurule would be at the door with her and Rowley, but he was almost right next to her when the women knocked. When LeFave opened the door, Rowley said she asked for someone with a fictitious name. It was around that time that Hughes noticed Gurule had a gun, she said.

Once LeFave explained the woman didn't live there, Hughes said she and Rowley turned to leave. Hughes said she heard Gurule ask LeFave for "his stuff" but was already down the stairs when she heard a gunshot.

"I was worried it was Gabe that got shot, because I didn't know what had happened," she said.

Back at their apartment, Gurule was there. Martinez said the man was crying and shaking with a gun in his hand.

Gabe told me he was mad … that I had never called and that Justen never went to sleep and that the plan did not work.

–Abegail Jennings

"I asked him if someone got shot, and he shook his head yes, and I asked him if the dude died, and he shook his head yes again," Martinez said. "I asked him if he shot the guy, and he said yes, in his upper chest by his throat. He said he was trying to scare him with the gun and push him back into the house, and when he was trying to scare him … the barrel went off."

Rowley said Gurule told her that "his finger slipped and it was an accident."

Martinez said he offered to get rid of the weapon and that he and Hughes cleaned it off that first night and eventually dumped it in a river up Millcreek Canyon.

Jennings was charged with conspiracy to commit burglary, a third-degree felony, in connection with the robbery attempt on July 24, but is anticipated to plead guilty to two class A misdemeanors.

Rowley, 36, was charged with murder and aggravated robbery, both first-degree felonies, while Hughes, 25, was charged with murder, aggravated robbery and obstructing justice, also first-degree felonies. Both women indicated they have been offered plea agreements that involve pleading guilty to the aggravated robbery count.

Martinez, 30, was also charged with murder, aggravated robbery and obstructing justice, first-degree felonies, but said his proposed plea agreement would allow him to plead solely to the first-degree felony aggravated robbery count.

It is anticipated that at the conclusion of the hearing on the evidence against Gurule, Judge Charlene Barlow will determine whether the evidence is sufficient to support the charges against the man.

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