A man charged with taking part in a drive-by shooting and leaving Kinsey Beebe, 19, for dead had his first day in front of a jury on Wednesday.
Prosecutor Eric Ruchensky stood in front of the jury when he pointed at Abraham Puentes-Ortiz, 24, and accused him of shooting Beebe three times in the head and neck with a .45 caliber pistol at East Arrowhead Avenue on February 28, 2018. Later, Joseph Carver, Puentes-Ortiz’s legal defender, stood in front of the same jury and asked them to remember his client is not yet guilty, and alleged the prosecution’s case lacked the evidence to lead to a conviction.
Puentes-Ortiz sat on Wednesday in a gray shirt and black tie, and had grown a beard. He pleaded not guilty to 13 charges by a grand jury, including first- and second-degree murder, kidnapping, and a drive-by shooting on behalf of a gang. Puentes-Ortiz could face life in prison if found guilty on the first-degree murder charge.
Adonis Encinas-Velarde was charged as an accomplice in this case and pleaded guilty to kidnapping, attempted drive-by shooting, assisting a criminal street gang, disorderly conduct with a weapon and misconduct involving weapons in June 2018. Encinas-Velarde was dating the victim in this case for over a month before she was killed.
At a hearing a week before the trial began, a judge nixed a portion of Puentes-Ortiz’s testimony gained by an interview with police investigators after allegations that the police ignored his right to remain silent. In an interview with police investigators at the time, Puentes-Ortiz said twice, “I don’t want to talk anymore.”
After hearing his statements, investigators took some time to think and eventually verbally coerced Puentes-Ortiz into speaking further, according to his attorney.
Judge Cathleen Brown-Nichols ruled his statements were a clear invocation of his right to remain silent, and forbid attorneys from using any testimony given after he indicated he did not want to speak.
On Wednesday, Carver walked back and forth in front of the jurors and alleged they should not think about what the evidence shows, but what it doesn’t.
“The story that has Abraham guilty of murder doesn’t have a home here for a lot of the testimony you’re going to hear,” Carver said.
He alleged the state’s case portrays Puentes-Ortiz as crazy and high-strung, but alleged testimony would show that Encinas-Velarde was the one who was yelling at Kinsey trying to find a missing gun. When Beebe eventually says she plans to leave, Carver alleges that Encinas-Velarde was afraid that Beebe was leaving for good.
Carver's argument against his client's homicide allegations culminated in pointing to a lack of evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt who was closer to the firing gun, Encinas-Velarde or Puentes-Ortiz.
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“People will testify that Kinsey was shot at close range,” Carver said. “When the DNA experts examined Abraham’s clothing, they found no DNA of Kinsey's on his clothes. None of Adonis’s clothing was ever tested.”
Ruchensky alleged that Puentes-Ortiz had been drinking that night with Encinas-Velarde, but was being much more irrational.
After the search for the lost handgun began, the two men approached Beebe about it. Ruchensky alleged that Beebe was “trapped” in Encinas-Velarde’s room when she decided she wanted to leave and called her mom on the phone to ask her to pick her up.
“In that moment, in the middle of conversation with her mother, the defendant took a .45 caliber pistol out of his waistband, raised it, and fired three shots in quick succession into Kinsey’s head and neck,” Ruchensky said.
Ruchensky let his statement sit in the courtroom as he took a drink of water. Puentes-Ortiz sat still during the majority of the opening statements.
Ruchensky later described that Kinsey was declared dead on arrival at the hospital. He then transitioned to the drive-by shooting, describing Puentes-Ortiz’s actions that night as a “crime spree.”
“Defendant was intent on putting in more work on behalf of his gang; Defendant and Adonis committed a drive-by shooting,” Ruchensky said.
He said while no one died in the shooting, there were two people in the home, neither of which were gang members. Their target had not been at the home at the time. Encinas-Velarde pulled the trigger of Puentes-Ortiz’s AR-15 that night.
“There may be no good or clear reason why he did those things that night,” Ruchensky said. “The state will tell you that once you hear all of the evidence, hear all the witnesses, to hold the defendant accountable and find him guilty of all these charges.”
Carver responded to the state's characterization of the drive-by shooting by focusing on the fact that his client did not pull the trigger of the AR-15.