Rosalinda Oquita was preparing to leave her husband, Delfino Arriaga-Luna, a year ago when a different man began angrily pounding on the door of her Salt Lake City home.
Oquita didn't answer the knocks of 41-year-old Victor Manuel Sanchez. The man frightened her, she testified Tuesday in 3rd District Court, and she believed Sanchez might have been the reason her husband sent her with $60 to stay at West Valley City motel on April 5, 2010, after telling her he feared someone would come to the house to retaliate over a drug debt.
Oquita returned to her home from the motel Arriaga-Luna sent her to on the morning of April 6 and a short time later, Sanchez arrived. The man left, but as Oquita loaded up a truck so she and her two girls could leave an abusive Arriaga-Luna, Sanchez returned. He spotted her in the truck and ordered Oquita to talk to him.
"I'm not going to hurt you. I just want my girl," Sanchez told Oquita.
The girl Sanchez referred to was Stephanie Williams, a 19-year-old woman who Arriaga-Luna would later confess to shooting in the head twice with a .40-caliber handgun on Easter Sunday in 2010 over a $200 drug debt she owed.
But before Sanchez learned of the woman's death, he used Oquita and her two children –ages 2 and 3 as collateral to persuade Arriaga-Luna to release Williams, prosecutors alleged during the first day of a three-day jury trial for Sanchez before Judge Ann Boyden.
Sanchez is charged with three counts of first-degree felony aggravated kidnapping charges.
Before Williams was killed, Sanchez, an older man with whom she shared a romantic relationship, was desperate to try to keep the girl from Arriaga-Luna a violent drug dealer determined to collect what he owed, said Sanchez's attorney Fred Metos. Even though Williams also had a sexual relationship with Arriaga-Luna, Sanchez believed Arriaga-Luna would harm Williams over the drug money, Metos said.
In an opening statement, Metos said that Sanchez didn't hold Oquita against her will.
Oquita led Sanchez to Arriaga-Luna at an apartment where he was hiding in Salt Lake City after he shot Williams in part because she was angry that her husband had cheated on her with multiple women, Metos said. Oquita had discovered Arriaga-Luna's car at the apartment earlier in the day when she went to borrow money from a friend who lived at that apartment. She saw Arriaga-Luna's car outside and believed her husband was having an affair with her friend's niece, Metos said.
Oquita wrote the Spanish word for "whore" on the niece's vehicle with a lipstick pencil, then left the apartment to pack up her house to leave her husband, Metos said.
When Sanchez came around looking for Arriaga-Luna, Oquita didn't mind helping, Metos alleged.
But Arriaga-Luna didn't take the bait when Sanchez arrived outside that apartment with Oquita. Sanchez then drove back to Oquita's house and made her bring her two children with her to raise the stakes in order to get Arriaga-Luna to come outside to talk to him, according to court documents and testimony.
It was around that time Sanchez received a phone call that Williams' body was discovered by her mother.
"Oh my God they killed her. I can't believe they killed her," prosecutor Mandy Rose recounted Sanchez as saying. Sanchez then turned to Oquita and allegedly said, "You and your children are not leaving until I find Delfino and cut him up into a million pieces."
Sanchez eventually drove Oquita to Williams' house, where police officers were combing the crime scene. Metos said that the two had agreed that Oquita would tell police where to find her husband and share information that Arriaga-Luna had killed Williams. But when Oquita got to police, she instead told them that Sanchez had kidnapped her, Metos said.
Metos questioned why Sanchez would bring Oquita to police if he had done something wrong criminally wrong himself. He said Oquita wanted to keep the spotlight off her drug dealing husband because she was afraid of losing financial support.
He said Oquita's credibility is questionable. The woman testified in court Tuesday in a jail jumpsuit. She is awaiting trial on felony charges connected to drugs and being in possession of a stolen vehicle.
Oquita testified she is a caring mother who went along with Sanchez because she was terrified he would harm her children.
"I was so scared. I was bawling," Oquita said. "I told (Sanchez), I don't know what problems you've got with Delfino, but I've got babies and I don't want anything to happen to them."
Rose said Sanchez took matters into his own hands and that "two wrongs don't make a right." He should be punished for using Oquita to get to Arriaga-Luna, she said.
The trial continues Wednesday. If convicted Sanchez faces up to life in prison each kidnapping charge.
Sanchez faces up to life in prison
P The trial continues Wednesday. If convicted, Victor Manuel Sanchez, 43, faces up to life in prison on each kidnapping charge.