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Flagstaff murder trial hangs on whether shooting was premeditated

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There’s no question that Justin Colorado killed his girlfriend outside a Flagstaff apartment complex in June 2020.

Instead, a Coconino County jury must decide whether his fatal shooting of 34-year-old Jessica Biakeddy was premeditated.

Opening arguments in Colorado's trial in Coconino County Superior Court began Friday, followed by the first batch of testimony accounts.

Prosecutors are urging jurors to convict the 31-year-old of premeditated first-degree murder, possession of a weapon by a prohibited person and drive-by shooting in connection with the death of Biakeddy.

Prosecutor Ammon Barker told the jury that Colorado made a conscious decision to fire at Biakeddy 10 times on the night of June 23, 2020. He told police he ultimately opted to shoot her the 10th and final time because he "didn't want her to suffer" — putting her down as one might do with an animal, Barker said.

The defense says the shooting wasn't premeditated, but a drunken split-second reaction.

Whether the shooting was premeditated could make a tremendous difference for Colorado. Either way, he's going to prison, but whether the jury finds him guilty of first-degree murder will determine if he will ever have a possibility of parole.

Both Barker and defense attorney Jennifer Stock noted the couple's relationship was fraught. His past relationship with the mother of Colorado's child was a tense issue for the couple and they repeatedly fought about the same topic before making up again as they spent the day of June 23 together. Colorado took the day off work to visit Slide Rock State Park with Biakeddy. Colorado drank heavily throughout the day, Stock said, drinking beer before later switching to hard alcohol as the day progressed.

They continued to argue as they traveled to Flagstaff to visit Biakeddy's sister. Biakeddy went inside to have dinner with her sister and her niece and nephew while Colorado stayed in the car. She left the apartment multiple times, spending a few minutes with Colorado outside in the parking lot over the course of the evening before coming back inside.

Colorado stayed outside in the car the entire time, Stock said. He was upset, brooding over his separated family and his fraught relationship with Biakeddy. He kept drinking.

"He's in a dark place at this point," Stock said. "He's dark, he's drunk and he's angry."

Biakeddy eventually broke up with him that night and he began throwing her stuff out of the car, according to Stock. At some point, he attempted to go in for a hug goodbye and Biakeddy told Colorado to stay away from her. That's when he pulled out the gun. Biakeddy warned him she was going to call the police.

"He wants to intimidate her," Stock recounted for the court. "She says, '(Expletive) do it,' and bang, bang, bang, he does."

"He reacts and that's what it was — his reaction," she continued.

At least one witness saw the shooting and told police Colorado shot Biakeddy in the back as she ran away. He then shot her in the face as she lay on the asphalt screaming. He recounted the shooting in a confession to police, an audio recording of which was played for the jury.

"I shot close just to make sure she wasn't going to suffer," Colorado could be heard saying in the recording.

Barker said that was the moment Colorado decided to kill her — the moment of reflection before you kill someone, he told the jury.

That moment, according to Barker, is what made the killing premeditated.

The Coconino County medical examiner determined Biakeddy had 23 separate gunshot wounds, Barker said. He graphically recounted how the bullets passed through her body multiple times.

When police arrived on scene, Biakeddy was unconscious but still breathing. She died later at the Flagstaff Medical Center. Colorado sat stone-faced in his suit as Barker recounted the incidents of that night, but Biakeddy's family was clearly wrecked with emotion, sobbing as Barker recounted the details of her violent death.

Colorado then fled the scene and drove two hours to Kaibeto where he picked up the mother of his child and his daughter, Barker said. They later switched to her car after Colorado crashed his own. He allegedly confessed to killing Biakeddy to her and attempted to discard the gun used in the shooting. The woman eventually drove to a gas station and waited for police to arrive once Colorado fell asleep. The gun was later recovered and was a match for the one used to shoot Biakeddy.

Colorado confessed to Flagstaff police. He was still drunk during his first interaction with police, Stock said, detailing his slurred words and references to evil and the devil. He was sober by his next conversation with police, and Stock said he wanted to confess.

"It's a relief to tell them what happened," Stock said. "It's the least he could do."

The trial is scheduled to last a month.

Reporter Bree Burkitt can be reached at 928-556-2250 or bburkitt@azdailysun.com.

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Reporter - Cops, Court and Coconino County

Bree Burkitt covers crime, courts and Coconino County. She previously wrote for The Arizona Republic and The Spectrum & Daily News in southern Utah. Reach her at bburkitt@azdailysun.com or on Twitter at @breeburkitt.

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