Man charged with murder in alleged drug deal shooting

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SALT LAKE CITY — A man accused of shooting and killing another man during an alleged drug deal was charged with murder Tuesday.

Richard Michael Warner, 31, of West Valley City, was charged in 3rd District Court with murder, a first-degree felony, and two counts of obstructing justice, both second-degree felonies.

On Dec. 19, Warner and Austin James Herring, 29, of Bluffdale, drove to 563 W. 200 South to make a drug deal with Mario Zelaya-Zuniga, 32, of Honduras, according to Salt Lake police.

Once the deal was agreed upon, Herring got back into the driver's seat. While Zelaya-Zuniga was talking to Herring through the passenger-side window, Warner pulled out a gun and shot Zelaya-Zuniga apparently without warning in the neck, according to charging documents and a Salt Lake County Jail report.

Warner then burned the clothes he was wearing and threw the gun in the Jordan River, the charges state.

Shortly after the incident, police obtained surveillance footage of the alleged shooter and the getaway vehicle and released it to the media.

Due to the high media attention, Herring called police from his home in Bluffdale, where he lives with his parents, and turned himself in.

Herring then gave detectives Warner's name, and they arrested him at his house in West Valley City several hours later, according to police.

According to court records, neither man has ever been convicted of a felony in Utah. Warner pleaded guilty to misdemeanor drug possession in 2002, burglary-related crimes and interfering with an arrest in 2003, and marijuana possession in 2006.

Herring has a conviction for shoplifting in 2006, according to state court records. He also pleaded no contest on Dec. 10 to misdemeanor theft, and was charged recently in Sandy Justice Court with another shoplifting charge and possession of drug paraphernalia for an incident that allegedly happened Dec. 18, one day before the shooting.

There was no immediate word Tuesday whether Herring would be charged for the latest incident.


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Pat Reavy


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