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After 21-year-old Hope Gabaldon was found fatally injured in a West Valley City gutter in February, Sergio Briseno Medina bragged to friends and implied that he was the one responsible for her death, according to preliminary hearing testimony on Friday.
He sent a link to a news story to one friend, who testified that when he read a report about Gabaldon's death, he asked Medina if he was involved.
Medina responded, "Ya sabes," which the friend said translates to, "You already know."
"I was astonished at the whole thing," the witness testified. "I can't believe I was hearing this st."
Another friend said Medina outright admitted to him that he killed Gabaldon, saying he stabbed her repeatedly while she was driving her Jeep. When she got out of the car and tried to run away, the friend testified that Medina said he ran her over with the Jeep, and then got out of the vehicle and stabbed her some more before leaving her for dead at the side of the road.
Medina also showed the man a blood-covered knife, which he referred to as "baby," and threatened his friend if he told anyone about the crime, according to testimony.
Medina, 26, of Sandy, is charged in 3rd District Court with first-degree felony murder, as well as one count of second-degree felony obstructing justice.
After hearing testimony from police and several people who knew Medina some of whom expressed reluctance to testify and requested their names not appear in news stories Judge Richard McKelvie ordered the defendant to stand trial on the charges.
On Feb. 25, Gabaldon was found on the side of the road near 3100 South and 4000 West in West Valley City. She was taken to a local hospital, where she died.
Graphic autopsy photos displayed in Friday's hearing showed the 20 stab wounds on Gabaldon's body, along with large abrasions that likely came from lying on the roadway, a detective testified.
The day before Gabaldon was found along the roadside, Medina sent a text message to his girlfriend, saying he had to "take someone out."
But April Calderon, who had been held on a material witness warrant until she testified, said that she didn't know who that person was. The girlfriend said that in the days before Gabaldon's death, Medina told her to call a phone number and "scare her." She said she didn't know at that time that she had been calling Gabaldon.
Calderon said her boyfriend and his friends had worried that Gabaldon was working "undercover," presumably with police.
West Valley City police Detective Bryan Haywood testified that Medina later told officers that he and Gabaldon were dealing drugs together, and he wanted to discourage her from that lifestyle.
"He said he was just trying to scare her so she would realize this is serious, what she's getting into," the detective testified.
On the same day that Gabaldon was fatally injured, Medina also instructed his girlfriend to get a pink bag he had just left in the garage and get rid of it, Calderon testified. Police later found the bag, which contained Gabaldon's clothing and a paper with her name on it, in a shed in Medina and Calderon's backyard.
No clear motive for Medina's alleged slaying of Gabaldon was revealed Friday. His attorney, Scott Wilson, pointed out during the hearing that only one piece of physical evidence Medina's fingerprints on the outside of Gabaldon's Jeep, which was located by police in a parking lot near 4100 S. 4000 West tie him to the murder.
The defense attorney, outside of court, called the credibility of some of the witnesses "questionable."
Medina will be in court again on June 6 for an arraignment hearing.
He was arrested in Denver on Feb. 28, then transported to the Salt Lake County Jail, where he is being held on $1 million cash-only bail.