Murdered man’s family, friends worry suspected killer was let off too easy for other crimes

Mar 21, 2023, 6:57 PM | Updated: 7:21 pm

OGDEN, Utah — Family and friends of an Ogden man who was shot and killed question why the justice system let a violent felon return to the streets.

Sources in the criminal justice system tell KSL that current Utah laws are letting too many violent offenders out of jail easily.

It can put the public in danger, some say the murder of 25-year-old Juan Garcia is a worst-case example.

Sometimes it’s hard not to wonder what could have been, and how things might have turned out with the slightest change.

“It happened at 4:57 p.m., like ten minutes before we clock in,” Ezekiel Cortez said. Garcia was his best friend. He used to call him J.J.

“I always think to myself if, like, he wouldn’t have switched his schedule, where would he be at right now,” Cortez said.

Juan Garcia was shot to death near the intersection of Harrison and 12th streets in Ogden  on January 17, 2023. (KSL TV) Juan Garcia was Ezekiel Cortez's best friend. (KSL TV) Juan Garcia (Juan Garcia family)

He and Garcia graduated from Ben Lomond High School together and worked together.

“He was a role model,” Cortez said.

Cortez said J.J. was good, especially because of his little Maia, only four to five months old.

Being a father was everything.

“Yeah very important. It was all he talked about,” Cortez said. “Was kind of nudging me to do it too, you know. ‘You should do it so our kids can hang out.’”

Garcia was suddenly taken away one night in January near the intersection of Harrison and 12th streets.

“Yeah, looked at the wrong person,” Cortez said.

Police found nine bullet holes in Garcia’s car. Mauro Soto was arrested in connection with the shooting. Another man is also charged in the case.

Just a few years before, Soto fired was accused of firing at least 14 rounds into another car where his girlfriend was a passenger.

No one was hurt but Mauro was sentenced to two to 20 years in prison for the crime. He was also on parole for assault at the time of that shooting.

“I’m all for giving people a second chance and you know, like rehabilitating into society,” Cortez said. “But I just feel like what had happened with this was, like, a complete negligence of, like, not supervising criminals.”

It’s why Cortez and others close to Garcia wonder how things might be different today if the accused killer had stayed behind bars.

Garcia was not involved in gangs. Family and friends aren’t sure what set off the killer.

Soto is now behind bars at the Weber County Jail facing several charges including aggravated murder.

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Murdered man’s family, friends worry suspected killer was let off too easy for other crimes