COURTS & LEGAL

West Jordan man found guilty in 2021 Halloween party homicide

Jun 10, 2024, 8:51 PM

A West Jordan man accused of shooting and killing another man at a Halloween party in 2021 has been...

A West Jordan man accused of shooting and killing another man at a Halloween party in 2021 has been found guilty of murder. (Pixabay)

(Pixabay)

SALT LAKE CITY — A West Jordan man accused of shooting and killing another man at a Halloween party in 2021 has been found guilty of murder.

Roy Anthony Duran, 23, was convicted of the murder of Isaiah Valerio on Friday. In addition to the first-degree felony, a jury also found Duran guilty of possession of a firearm as a restricted person and obstructing justice, both second-degree felonies.

The crime happened on Oct. 24, 2021, at a party hosted by Duran’s girlfriend at a warehouse near 500 West and 600 South in Salt Lake City. According to prosecutors, Duran punched Valerio “without provocation” after Duran’s girlfriend said Valerio had hit her — but video showed Valerio had not Duran’s girlfriend. Others at the event began defending Valerio, and then Duran pulled out his gun and shot Valerio in the face before leaving the scene, prosecutors said.

“This tragic shooting, started by unprovoked violence, is heartbreaking to the loved ones of Mr. Valerio and our entire community. We hope that the justice and accountability that was delivered with this jury verdict will help begin the healing process for Mr. Valerio’s family,” said Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill in a statement.

Rudy Bautista, Duran’s attorney, told the jury that Duran’s girlfriend had asked Valerio and others “who were being destructive and disrespectful and belligerent” to leave when he assaulted her. He said his client “did what any man would do” and punched the man who had assaulted his girlfriend, and then within milliseconds “he’s being pummeled by six men.”

He said Duran was being punched and kicked, surrounded by others, when he used deadly force — which he said was legal because Duran was preventing a felony of aggravated assault. “When he pulled out that gun, it was to stop the fight; it wasn’t to murder someone,” Bautista said.

Views of the witnesses

Witnesses could not agree on whether Duran was still on the ground or had stood up when he fired the shot, but Bautista contested that his client was on the ground, surrounded.

“You’re going to hear different stories. … When something like this happens, it becomes chaos,” he said during opening arguments.

Bautista said Duran doesn’t dispute that he took the gun from the scene, and told the jury they could find him guilty of that, but said he did dispute the murder charge. He said Duran was responsible for Valerio’s death but argued he was justified.

Deputy Salt Lake County attorney Josh Graves, however, said the victim was “shot point-blank in the head” and that Duran was looking to start a fight at the party. He asked jurors to consider “provocation” in their deliberations and said the situation was provoked by Duran.

He said many attendees of the party were under the legal age for alcohol, but there was drinking and dancing. Graves also said Duran had been showing his gun to others at the party.

Throughout the four-day jury trial, jurors heard from multiple individuals who were at the party, including some witnesses called by Bautista. Duran chose not to testify.

The jury was given the option to decide that Duran acted in imperfect self-defense — meaning that he believed he was legally justified by self-defense although he was not — but they decided this was not the case.

Duran is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 7. He will likely spend at least 15 years in prison, according to Utah law.

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West Jordan man found guilty in 2021 Halloween party homicide