SALT LAKE CITY — Two men facing federal drug and weapons charges have now been charged in connection with a 2019 murder investigation in West Valley City.
Jonathan Alexander Morales-Lopez, 19, and Jose Luis "Taku" Amaya-Urquijo, 23, both of West Valley City, were charged Monday in 3rd District Court with murder and aggravated robbery, both first-degree felonies; and obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony. Amaya received additional charges of discharge of a firearm causing serious injury, a first-degree felony; and possession of a weapon by a restricted person, a second-degree felony.
No-bail warrants were issued Monday for Morales, who is an inmate in the Tooele County Jail, and Amaya, who is an inmate in the Weber County Jail, according to court records.
Both are accused in the shooting death of Jesus Manuel Vasquez, 31, of West Valley City, whose body was found on Dec. 7 inside his pickup truck in the parking lot of a meetinghouse of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2835 S. 2855 West. At the time, police said they believed Vasquez was shot at another location, put inside his truck and driven to the parking lot where the vehicle was abandoned.
Two bullets were recovered from Vasquez's body during an autopsy, charging documents state.
Detectives tracked down the person Vasquez last had communication with before his death and learned that that woman had arranged for him to meet her "in a shed," according to charging documents. When Vasquez arrived, the woman was with three other people, including Morales and Amaya.
The woman said she saw Amaya shoot Vasquez following an altercation, then leave with Vasquez in his truck, the charges state.
Morales claimed he saw Amaya chase Vasquez out of the shed, the charges state. He said Amaya then made him help put Vasquez back in his truck after the shooting, according to the charges.
Another woman who was present told police that Amaya had pointed a gun at Vasquez, who then pulled out his wallet "and told Taku that he did not have anything. Taku told Jesus he was lying and that he knew Jesus had money and drugs on him," charging documents state. The woman claimed Morales then fired three rounds, aiming above Vasquez, the charges state. Vasquez started running and Amaya shot him, according to the charges.
Forensic analysis of the gun Amaya had when he was arrested as well as DNA collected from Vasquez' truck were used to link the suspects to the shooting, the charges state.
Both men were also charged in January in state court with stealing multiple guns from a display case at a Salt Lake County store, according to charging documents. Those charges were dismissed after federal charges were filed against the men for the same crime, according to court records. Amaya is in the country illegally, court records state.