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West Valley man sent to prison for witness tampering in murder case

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West Valley man sent to prison for witness tampering in murder case

By McKenzie Romero | Posted - Mar. 2, 2017 at 4:10 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY — A West Valley man once charged with murder in the killing of a man during a 2015 robbery has been sentenced to prison for obstructing justice and tampering with a witness.

Arturo Frias-Gonzales, 26, entered a plea deal with prosecutors earlier this year, admitting to the two second-degree felonies while the murder charge was dismissed. He was sentenced Feb. 21 to concurrent terms of one to 15 years in prison.

Frias-Gonzales was originally charged with murder alongside two others — Eddie Salazar, 42, of West Valley City, and Bernadette Ramirez, 48, of Salt Lake City — in the July 2015 death of Steven Louis Valdez, 63.

Frias-Gonzales had also faced charges of aggravated robbery, aggravated kidnapping and child kidnapping, all first-degree felonies.

Police say the trio went to Valdez's apartment, 4150 S. Bluejay (4985 West), and shot and beat him. Police found Valdez dead in an upstairs bedroom with a wallet and necklace reportedly stolen from him. He died from a gunshot wound to his leg and blunt force trauma to his head believed to be from a tire iron, according to an autopsy.

Valdez's niece, who was in the home at the time and saw the trio with weapons standing next to her badly bleeding uncle, escaped their gunfire and fled out of the window of the home with her infant, according to charging documents.

However, Ramirez and Frias-Gonzales caught up with the woman outside the home and forced her into an SUV, charges state. The two allegedly ordered her to tell police she witnessed "a home invasion robbery by a gang of masked men" and that they were in Wendover at the time of the killing.

In her initial statements, the woman repeated the story Frias-Gonzales and Ramirez had given her.

Charges allege Frias-Gonzales and Ramirez were armed with guns and Salazar had the tire iron.

Later that year, police searched Ramirez's apartment as part of a drug investigation, finding watches and a necklace belonging to Valdez, charges state. Later, Ramirez called a detective from Valdez's stolen cellphone, according to police.

Ramirez told police she had gotten into an argument with Valdez for stealing her drug customers, and then blacked out, according to charging documents.

A jury trial for Salazar is set to begin March 6. He is also charged with aggravated robbery and aggravated kidnapping, first-degree felonies, and aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury, a second-degree felony.

Ramirez's next hearing is March 10. She is also charged with aggravated robbery, a first-degree felony; two counts of aggravated kidnapping, a first-degree felony; child kidnapping, a first-degree felony; and obstructing justice, a second-degree felony.

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McKenzie Romero

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