El Jebel man accused of shooting death of aunt and uncle | VailDaily.com

El Jebel man accused of shooting death of aunt and uncle

EL JEBEL — An El Jebel man is being held on two counts of first-degree murder after allegedly fatally shooting his aunt and uncle Saturday night in their midvalley home, the Eagle County Sheriff's Office said Sunday. Williams Anderson Amaya, 33, is being held in Eagle County Jail without bond. He is scheduled to be formally advised of the charges in a court hearing Monday, said Eagle County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Jessie Mosher. Amaya is accused of shooting Mayra Lorena Lopez, 40, and her husband, Eliseo Lopez, 42, according to authorities. Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis said autopsies on Tuesday will determine if the Lopezes received single or multiple gunshot wounds. The shooting occurred at about 11:17 p.m. Saturday at the Lopez home at 160 Arapahoe in Sopris Village, a subdivision behind the El Jebel City Market in unincorporated Eagle County. Amaya fled the scene before an Eagle County deputy sheriff arrived "minutes later," according to a statement by the sheriff's office. The Lopezes have two sons whose ages were reported by the sheriff's office to be 13 and 14. They were unharmed. "One of the boys was the one who called 911," Mosher said. "He got out of the house and he called 911." THE SEARCH FOR AMAYA Eagle County deputies, with the assistance of law enforcement agencies throughout the Roaring Fork Valley, started a search for Amaya. They suspected he fled in his 2009 Honda Civic. Investigators contacted his cell phone service provider to enlist help tracking the suspect. "We pinged his cell phone and found he was at his place of employment," Mosher said. She said Amaya worked Colorado Pool and Spa Scape at a facility located at 5308 County Road 154. Members of the Eagle County Special Operations Unit, with assistance from a special team from Garfield County, surrounded the business, Mosher said. A detective reached Amaya on his telephone and alerted him that authorities were outside. "He basically surrendered himself," Mosher said. He was taken into custody without incident at 5:40 a.m. Sunday, she said. "The gun was recovered," Mosher said. "It's my understanding that it was in the car." The weapon recovered was a .380-caliber handgun, she said. Detectives are investigating a motive in the case, according to Mosher. Both the boys were interviewed. No information was available on whether an argument preceded the shooting. RESIDENTS SHOCKED The incident shocked residents of Sopris Village, a mostly working class subdivision of about 130 homes. "To my knowledge, nothing like that has happened here (before). It's shocking," said Michael Meiners, a longtime resident of Sopris Village and president of the Homeowners Association. The Lopez home is on a street of mostly well-groomed houses next to Crown Mountain Park. Homes in Sopris Village are among the most affordable in the midvalley so the subdivision attracts a lot of blue-collar workers and young professionals starting families. "Overall, I think this is a well-respected and well-maintained neighborhood," Meiners said. He was unaware of any complaints or homeowners' association actions with the house at 160 Arapahoe. News of the double homicide caught many residents of the neighborhood off guard Sunday morning. Only immediate neighbors of the Lopez residence were aware of a shooting Saturday night. One resident of Arapahoe, who didn't want to comment for attribution, said a deputy knocked on their door shortly after the incident and told them to stay inside and lock their doors. The resident said they didn't hear gunfire or anything prior to the incident. Some residents of the immediate area were alerted of the situation with a reverse 911 call from Eagle County, Mosher said. People in the midvalley that are registered with the Pitkin Alert system received an email at 12:35 a.m. Sunday warning that a shooting suspect was "unaccounted for." Recipients were told to keep their doors locked. Mosher said a victim's advocate from Eagle County Sheriff's Office went to the Lopez home on Sunday. A grief counselor was also available for the boys, said another authority with direct knowledge of the situation. Mosher said the Sheriff's Office was notified that the boys were placed in the care of an uncle. Mayra Lopez was employed in the health office of Basalt Elementary School, according to the school's website. It couldn't be immediately determined where Eliseo Lopez worked. Amaya didn't have an extensive criminal background in the state, according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. He was cited for underage drinking by Snowmass Village police in October 2001, according to records. Glenwood Post Independent Editor Randy Essex contributed to this report. Scott Condon can be reached at scondon@aspentimes.com

Affidavit: Argument about dog preceded double murder in El Jebel

EAGLE — Williams Anderson Amaya might have intended to kill others, in addition to his aunt and uncle, Saturday night in a home at Sopris Village, the 5th Judicial district attorney said in court Monday. Amaya purchased a .380 caliber handgun on the same day he allegedly killed El Jebel area residents Mayra Lorena Lopez, 40, and her husband, Eliseo Lopez, 42, according to authorities. The gunfire erupted after Amaya was arguing with Mrs. Lopez about the family dog, according to an affidavit in support of an arrest warrant for Amaya. There were seven other people in the house other than Amaya at the time of the slaying, according to the affidavit and an official with the Eagle County Sheriff's Office. In addition to the Lopezes, there were their two sons, ages 14 and 13, as well as Amaya's brother Herbert Amaya and his wife and daughter, according to Jessie Mosher, public information officer for the Eagle County Sheriff's Office. One of the Lopez boys and Herbert Amaya's family got out of the house from a bedroom after the gunshots. The other Lopez boy apparently stayed in the house during the argument, according to the affidavit. Amaya, 33, made his first court appearance Monday morning after he was arrested early Sunday and booked on two first-degree murder charges. Amaya also will likely face attempted murder charges, District Attorney Bruce Brown said. Amaya targeted other people in the house, so prosecutors are anticipating adding attempted murder to Amaya's charges, Brown said. "Other occupants appeared to be targeted during this event," Brown said outside of the courtroom. "It appears that similar means used against the victims were contemplated to be used against others. Some of the forensic evidence indicated that." Amaya upset about family dog The arrest warrant affidavit indicates that Amaya became agitated with the Lopezes and started arguing sometime around 11 p.m. Saturday in the home. The 13-year-old son of the Lopezes told detectives he was in his room preparing for bed when he heard Amaya yelling about the family dog. The boy said he heard a gunshot and heard Mrs. Lopez yell for help, then there was another gunshot and she screamed in pain, the affidavit said. Herbert Amaya, 31, the brother of Williams, was in his bedroom with his family when he was awoken by gunfire, according to the affidavit. Herbert told detectives he got out of bed and walked down a hallway and saw Mayra Lorena Lopez moving. Eliseo Lopez was just beyond her with blood around his head, the affidavit said. The Lopezes' other son, a 14-year-old, came running to Herbert and told him "to get his family and get out of the house," according to the affidavit. Once they exited, the son called 911, according to authorities. "This incident had the potential to be an escalated situation," Mosher said. When deputies arrived at the house, they conducted a protective sweep to make sure it was safe, according to the affidavit by Eagle County Sheriff's Office Detective Aaron Veldheer. Another detective confirmed that the Lopezes were deceased. The home was secured while a search warrant was sought. Officials also secured the arrest warrant. Investigators contacted Williams Amaya's cellphone provider and were able to trace him to his place of employment in Garfield County. They surrounded the building and he gave up without incident at 5:40 a.m. Sunday. Deputies said they recovered the handgun from Amaya's car. Williams Amaya had rented a room in his aunt and uncle's house for about six months, the affidavit said. Herbert Amaya and his family had rented a bedroom in the house for about three years, according to the affidavit. The dog survived the incident, according to Mosher. It was taken into custody and was scheduled to be returned to the family on Monday, she said. Amaya represented by public defender Dressed in orange jail clothes, Amaya rocked back and forth in his swivel chair during Monday's court appearance. His brown eyes were wide as he looked around the courtroom from his seat at the defendant's table. His attorney, Reed Owens with the public defender's office, sat beside him. Owens defended Rossi Moreau in one of Eagle County's most recent homicide cases. Brown and assistant district attorneys Joe Kirwan and Courtney Gilbert will prosecute the case. In the courtroom, Amaya's hands were cuffed in front of him, clasped to a thick leather belt around his waist. His feet were shackled with a 2-foot chrome chain. A court-appointed interpreter explained to Amaya in Spanish what was happening. Amaya's charges are expected to be made official by July 25. He is scheduled to be back in court at 9:30 a.m. on July 28. In the meantime, District Court Judge Russell Granger ordered Amaya held without bail because he is considered a flight risk. "He fled the scene immediately after the crimes were committed," Brown said. Amaya is a resident alien, in the country legally from El Salvador. He reportedly graduated from Aspen High School. He has been employed locally for eight years, working with a pool and spa company, but has made several trips out of the state, Brown said. The district attorney said he had no thoughts about Amaya's thought processes at the time of the shootings. Because it's a capital offense, Amaya is eligible for the death penalty. It will be "weeks, if not months" before it will be determined if the death penalty will be sought, Brown said. Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis said autopsies Tuesday will determine if the Lopezes were victims of single or multiple gunshots. scondon@aspentimes.com rwyrick@vaildaily.com

2 killed in El Jebel; man arrested in Glenwood overnight

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Authorities arrested a man in Glenwood Springs early this morning after a double slaying late Saturday in El Jebel. Eagle County authorities said in a news release that they were notified at 11:17 p.m. of a shooting at 160 Arapahoe in the El Jebel area of unincorporated Eagle County. A deputy arriving at the address minutes later and found a deceased male and a deceased female in the residence. A suspect was reported to have fled before authorities arrived. Eagle County Undersheriff Mike McWilliam said this morning that the suspect was arrested without incident at about 5:40 a.m. in Glenwood Springs. Williams Anderson Amaya, 33, had been sought in the shooting, and was considered armed and dangerous. Eagle County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Jessie Mosher said the office asked the suspect’s cell phone company to “ping” his phone. That led authorities to Amaya’s workplace, where he was arrested. Eagle County authorities were investigating. The county coroner will release the cause of death and identification of the two victims later.

Autopsy: El Jebel victims were both shot four times

EAGLE COUNTY — The husband and wife who were slain Saturday in their home in Sopris Village were each shot four times, according to autopsies that were performed Tuesday. "The cause of death is multiple gunshot wounds," Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis said. "The manner of death was homicide." Bettis said Mayra Lopez, 40, and her husband, Eliseo Lopez, 42, both had gunshot wounds to their heads and to their bodies. Bettis said she could not comment on how close the shooter was to the victims at the time of the gunshots because she needed to study the autopsy reports in more detail. The preliminary reports came out at about 7 p.m. on Tuesday. Bettis said the time of death would have been "immediate" for both of the Lopezes. SHOOTING REPORTED SATURDAY The couple were slain in their home at 160 Arapahoe, a subdivision in unincorporated Eagle County, immediately south of the El Jebel City Market. The shooting was reported at 11:17 p.m. on Saturday. The couple's nephew, Williams Anderson Amaya, 33, has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in connection to the shootings. He is being held without bond at the Eagle County Jail. Amaya was renting a room in the Lopezes home. There were seven other people in the house at the time of the shooting, including Amaya's brother, his wife and their daughter, according to reports. Fifth Judicial District Attorney Bruce Brown said during Amaya's first court hearing Monday that other charges will likely be filed in the case. "Other occupants appeared to be targeted during this event," Brown said outside the courtroom Monday. "It appears that similar means used against the victims were contemplated to be used against others. Some of the forensic evidence indicated that." Brown also disclosed that it is suspected that Amaya purchased a handgun the day of the shootings. Amaya allegedly fled the scene before Eagle County deputy sheriffs arrived minutes after a call was placed by one of the Lopez sons to 911. He was arrested early Sunday morning at the business where he worked in rural Garfield County. He surrendered after notification that a SWAT team had the building surrounded. Eagle County Sheriff's Office said the suspected murder weapon, a .380-caliber handgun, was recovered from Amaya's car. Eagle County Sheriff's Office authorities couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday night on whether it is suspected that Amaya reloaded his weapon during the incident. An arrest affidavit filed in the case said witnesses reported an argument broke out prior to the eruption of gunfire. Amaya was allegedly yelling at Mayra Lopez about the family dog. Amaya's next court appearance is scheduled for July 28.

Two dead after double shooting near El Jebel

A Missouri Heights husband and wife were both killed by gunshot wounds Saturday, authorities with the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office said. The double shooting occurred sometime around 11 or 11:30 a.m., said sheriff’s spokeswoman Jessie Mosher. The victims’ names had not been released as of 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The woman was pronounced dead on the scene. The man was transported to Valley View Hospital. Mosher said that she learned at 4 p.m. that he had died. “The case remains under investigation, but there is no immediate threat in the El Jebel area,” Mosher said. She declined to say how many shots were believed to have been fired or what type of firearm or firearms were involved. The home where the two were found is on Vega Drive in the Missouri Heights subdivision, outside El Jebel. Vega Drive comprises five to seven residences; the closest home to where the shootings occurred is about 75 yards away, said Ron Ryan, undersheriff with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. Authorities received a call from a person who reported that shots were heard in the area, Mosher said. The initial call was that two women had been shot, Ryan said. “The original call was that shots had been fired in front of the house,” he said. Authorities found both husband and wife on the lawn outside of a residence on Vega Drive, Ryan said. Ryan, along with three deputies from Pitkin County, provided mutual aid at the scene, he said. Neither Mosher nor Ryan would discuss who is believed to have fired the shots. “There are some details at the scene that would suggest who played a role, but it’s an Eagle County investigation, and it would be inappropriate for me to say anything,” Ryan said. Mosher could not provide information about the victims’ family or details about how long the couple had been married. Homicides are a rare occurrence in the Roaring Fork Valley. The last murder in the mid- to upper half of the Roaring Fork Valley was a murder-suicide in November 2005 when a man killed a woman and then turned on himself.

Amaya found not guilty in El Jebel double homicide

EAGLE — A jury Friday found Williams Anderson Amaya not guilty of all five counts he faced for the slaying of his aunt and uncle in El Jebel in July 2014. The 12-member jury deliberated 12 hours — eight hours on Thursday and four hours Friday — before reaching the verdict. They found Amaya not guilty of two counts of first-degree murder for the killings of Eliseo and Mayra Lopez; two counts of first-degree attempted murder for shooting at the beds of the Lopez's two teen-aged boys; and one count of tampering with evidence. Amaya acknowledged he fatally shot his aunt and uncle, but he pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Amaya, 35, isn't a free man. He will be held by the Colorado Department of Human Services "until such time as he is deemed eligible for release," said Eagle County District Judge Paul Dunkelman. The judge ordered that Amaya be transported as soon as possible to the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo, where officials will determine where he is treated. The key witness in the case was Dr. John Hearn, a forensic psychiatrist who is among the mental health experts contracted by the state government to undertake evaluations at the state mental hospital in Pueblo. "He was legally insane at the time of the crimes," Hearn said while testifying earlier this week. Mayra Lopez's mother, present in the courtroom throughout the trial, was distraught after the verdict was read. She was sobbing as she departed. The case cannot be appealed by the 5th Judicial District Attorney's Office because that would constitute double jeopardy, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Joe Kirwan. "It's the end of the road from the prosecution side," he said.

First day of testimony begins in El Jebel double-homicide trial

It had been a normal summer Saturday for the Lopez family in El Jebel. They watched soccer, went to a church fair in Carbondale and came home a little before 11 that night. The family was winding down from the busy day. The mother, Mayra Lopez, was enjoying a bowl of ice cream. The two teenage sons, Jesse and Eliseo Jr., were getting ready for bed. Then the sons heard commotion break out in another part of the house. An argument in Spanish had erupted, the family dog was barking and they heard pops of gunfire. Jesse was scared and stayed in his room as he heard his mother call for help from Heribert Amaya, a family relative who lived with them in the Sopris Village subdivision. Eliseo Jr. had been in a bathroom brushing his teeth. "I was scared and didn't know what to do," Jesse Lopez, now 15 and a sophomore at Aspen High School, testified at trial Monday in Eagle County District Court. "She was breathing heavily." Lopez was the first witness for the prosecution in its case against Williams Anderson Amaya, 35, who faces two charges of murder in the first degree, two counts of attempted murder in the first degree, and tampering with physical evidence in the killings of Mayra Lopez, 40, and Eliseo Lopez, 42. The couple, who were originally from El Salvador, were married 16 years. Amaya has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. A 12-member jury that includes two alternates — seven men and seven women are on the panel — will be tasked with determining whether Amaya was criminally insane at the time of the murders, which took place July 12, 2014. Jesse recalled that he heard Amaya, his cousin who had rented a room at the home since November 2013, threaten to kill him and his brother if they called police. When he heard the front door close, Jesse ran from his room to see what had happened, he said. Jesse ran to a neighbor's house, where he hid under a truck in the driveway. Other inhabitants of the Lopez house — Jesse; cousin Heribert Amaya, who is Williams' brother, and his wife and baby — got in a vehicle and left, later contacting police in person. Before they left, Amaya was in the driveway, holding a handgun and staring at the passengers in the car as they backed out, Heribert testified. Amaya would later reload the handgun, firing two more shots at the mother and two more at the father, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Joe Kirwan. Both victims were shot in the head as well as other parts of their bodies, he said. Prosecutors also played Jesse's 911 call to an Aspen dispatcher. He made the call as he sought safety under the truck. His voice was composed as he told the dispatcher that "there's blood all over." The dispatcher stayed on the phone with him for a good 10 minutes as authorities from the Eagle and Pitkin county sheriff's offices and Basalt police were en route to the scene. Prosecutors showed family pictures to the jury — Kirwan described them as the "quintessential American family: hardworking and loving" — as well as the mother and father lying in pools of blood. "This home became the house of horror at about 11 p.m. on the night of July 12, 2014," Kirwan said in opening arguments. Defense: more to the story Public defender Reed Owens, meanwhile, told the jury in the defense's opening statement that Amaya had been plagued by psychological issues not readily apparent. "It is difficult to draw a straight line for a mental illness and look at it as a perfect, existing thing," Owens said. "It's complex and doesn't just operate in a straight line." Amaya's mental issues dated back to at least 2012, when he told his church group in Glenwood Springs that he was the son of Lucifer. He said the same thing to his wife, Owens said, adding that Amaya was involuntarily placed into a mental health program in Glenwood Springs after he nearly strangled his wife. "He doesn't know what is going on," Owens said. "He's got great pressure, and he's not sure what is wrong." Amaya's wife later divorced him. Amaya worked at a pool and spa company in Glenwood Springs. "He doesn't have partners. He's insolated in his job and in his personal life," Owens said. As Amaya kept things to himself, his mental woes grew progressively worse, culminating with the murders, Owens said. "Williams Amaya thought he had to kill them because he is criminally insane," Owens said, noting that a court-appointed state psychiatrist interviewed him and concluded he has a mental disorder. "At the end of this case, we won't be asking you to release him. We will ask you to agree with the independent state doctors to find him not guilty by reason of insanity, where he can go to a state hospital and he will be safe, and where the community will be safe." Prosecution: killings were calculated Kirwan postulated that Amaya's actions on the day of the murders showed a man who had well thought out his crimes. He got his Honda Civic's oil changed at Big O Tires that morning in Basalt and then had breakfast at Red Rock Diner in Carbondale. He then drove to Cabela's, a sporting goods chain store in Grand Junction, where he paid $10 for a background check to buy a firearm. He then dropped more than $300 for a .38 caliber handgun and two boxes of ammunition. Later, he had lunch at Olive Garden in Grand Junction before driving back to the Roaring Fork Valley and having yogurt in Basalt, Kirwan said, showing jurors the receipts of Amaya's transactions that day. After that, he spent the rest of the day in his bedroom with a loaded gun, Kirwan said. Authorities, having been told by family members that Amaya was the gunman, tracked him down at his place of work around 3 in the morning after the murders. They were able to find his cellphone location, later discovering his weapon and receipts in a work truck at the job site. Amaya initially denied killing his aunt and uncle, placing blame on Jesse, Kirwan said. During his interrogation, he also told authorities he was related to Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. "This defendant knew what he was doing, he knew right from wrong, he could form the intent to commit these crimes just by his actions on the night of July 12, 2014," Kirwan said. "He knew that if he started to play a little crazy, that was a way to get off of killing Eliseo and Mayra." Eliseo did not testify but attended Monday's proceedings. The two sons now live with their aunt and uncle, Blanca "Edith" Argueta Amaya and Antonio Amaya, in Aspen. They too were in court, listening to the testimony through a Spanish translator on headphones. Antonio is the brother of Eliseo Lopez. Other relatives attended, as well. Williams Amaya, now clean-cut, sat quietly through the proceedings, also listening to a Spanish version of the testimony on headphones. Judge Paul Dunkelman is presiding over the trial, which is scheduled to run through Oct. 7. rcarroll@aspentimes.com

High speed chase ends with arrest at gunpoint

EAGLE — A man rolling through Eagle County at more than 100 mph was arrested Friday when he didn't stop with Eagle County Sheriff's deputies chasing him, police said. Eagle County Sheriff's Deputy Jake Best was on Interstate 70 doing traffic patrol when Edward Tarpey, 25, sped by traveling at more than 100 mph headed west, Best said. Shortly before that, local law enforcement had been notified that a suspect in a homicide might be rolling through Eagle County, said Jessie Mosher, public information officer with the Eagle County Sheriff's Office. Tarpey told deputies he was heading home to be with his family and said he was treated "fairly." "Thank you for the fair treatment you provided me with. I learned a great lesson," Tarpey wrote in his statement. When Best set off in pursuit, Tarpey did not stop. He kept driving west on I-70, Best said. Other law enforcement joined the chase, and Tarpey eventually pulled off I-70 at the Eagle exit. "Any time you're eluding police officers, there's a reason to believe that you're a danger to public safety," Mosher said. Deputies said they feared Tarpey might head north into Eagle's Eby Creek Mesa residential neighborhood or south toward the center of town. Instead, he pulled into Eagle's Kum & Go, where he gave up the chase, Mosher said. Deputies made the arrest with their weapons drawn, handcuffing Tarpey and taking him to jail. Tarpey was not the murder suspect from Denver. He was charged with reckless driving and speeding 40 mph or more over the speed limit. "If you're eluding a deputy and driving excessively, we're going to take every precaution to protect the public and ourselves," Mosher said. Tarpey is free on $100 bond. Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

Skull found in Holy Cross Wilderness on Thursday

EAGLE COUNTY — A hiker in the Holy Cross Wilderness area found the top half of a human skull Thursday afternoon. The hiker left the bones in place and called the police, said Jessie Mosher, public information officer with the Eagle County Sheriff's Office. The hiker called the U.S. Forest Service office in Minturn. The Forest Service staff immediately notified the Eagle County Sheriff's Office, said Dave Neely, district ranger with the Eagle/Holy Cross Ranger District. Eagle County Sheriff's investigators were called to the scene and are trying to determine whether it might be part of the body of someone who went missing in that area, Mosher said. Mosher said that more information would be released when it becomes available. Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vail daily.com.

Jury finds Amaya not guilty by reason of insanity in El Jebel double homicide

A jury found Williams Anderson Amaya not guilty Friday of all five counts he was facing connected to the slaying of his aunt and uncle in El Jebel in July 2014. The 12-member jury deliberated 12 hours — eight hours on Thursday and four hours Friday — before reaching the verdict. They found Amaya not guilty by reason of insanity on two counts of first-degree murder for the slayings of Eliseo and Mayra Lopez; two counts of first-degree attempted murder for shooting at the beds of the Lopez's two teen-aged boys; and one count of tampering with evidence. Amaya acknowledged he fatally shot his aunt and uncle, but he pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Amaya, 35, isn't a free man. He will be held by the Colorado Department of Human Services "until such time as he is deemed eligible for release," said Eagle County District Judge Paul Dunkelman. The judge ordered that Amaya be transported as soon as possible to the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo, where officials will determine where he is treated. A juror from the Roaring Fork Valley, Joe Mitchell, said the case was extremely frustrating because the burden of proof was on the prosecution, led by Chief Deputy District Attorney Joe Kirwan. Amaya had to be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, which meant finding him sane. "What everybody had a hard time with was the reasonable doubt thing," Mitchell said. The jury started deliberations at about 1 p.m. Thursday. "We were split almost 50-50 as soon as we went into the jury room," Mitchell said. Seven people felt Amaya was guilty and five felt he was not guilty as deliberations started. Mitchell credited the jury with working through the evidence and taking their responsibility very seriously. They were determined to reach a verdict and not be a hung jury, one that couldn't reach a conclusion. The jury went over evidence on a chalkboard. They enacted a scenario where an investigator contacted Amaya on the phone before an arrest was made. The difficult part, Mitchell said, was putting personal feelings aside and abiding the judge's instructions to base their decision strictly on the evidence. The toughest part for Mitchell and others was reaching a verdict of not guilty given the fact that the Lopezes were killed and their boys orphaned. "At least half of the people (jurors) felt it wasn't justice for the family," Mitchell said. "There were people crying in the jury room. It was upsetting for some people." Thea Reiff, one of the public defenders on Amaya's defense team, said the key witness in the case was Dr. John Hearn, a forensic psychiatrist who is among the mental health experts contracted by the state government to undertake evaluations at the state mental hospital in Pueblo. He wasn't paid by the prosecution or the defense. "At the end of the day, there was only one expert opinion from the court's doctor on the issue of sanity and that was that he was legally insane," Reiff said. Parameters of the Law The jury had an extremely tough decision, she said, but they rightfully applied the required standards. "The only issue for the jury was whether the prosecution had proven sanity beyond a reasonable doubt," she said. Hearn diagnosed Amaya with having schizophrenia after interviewing him Nov. 6, 2015. "He was legally insane at the time of the crimes," Hearn said while testifying earlier this week. Reiff said it was a truly an "awful case for the victims and their family and the community." She also said it was one of the most definitive cases where she's represented a defendant who truly met the standard of insane, rather than being mentally ill. Mitchell said some jurors were frustrated that they couldn't find Amaya guilty under the parameters of the law. He said he thought Kirwan did a good job presenting the case against Amaya. "It's just kind of hard to say he was sane at the time," Mitchell said. Mayra Lopez's mother, present in the courtroom throughout the trial, was distraught after the verdict was read. She was sobbing as she departed. The case cannot be appealed by the Fifth Judicial District Attorney's Office because that would constitute double jeopardy, according to Kirwan. "It's the end of the road from the prosecution side," he said.