After listening to the evidence presented in a Feb. 22 preliminary hearing, 18th Judicial District Judge J. Stephen Collins ruled that teenagers Louis Fernando Lara-Macias and Raheem Vaughn Benson will be held without bond until they go to trial on charges of first-degree murder after deliberation, first-degree felony murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, and attempted aggravated robbery in the fatal shooting of 33-year-old Nicholas Andrew Lewis.
However it appears a number of hearings will be held before the legal process can move forward to arraignment or a trial date can be set.
Following the judge's decision that the case should move forward, defense attorneys asked for a hearing on evidence they want suppressed.
Then, in a request that could have major impact on the case, the prosecutor and the defense attorneys requested a reverse transfer hearing be held to determine whether the case should be tried in adult court or in juvenile court. If the decision is made to try the two defendants as adults, the courtroom will be open to the public, but the public will be barred from the courtroom if the teens are tried in juvenile court.
Collins said he wanted to give both sides reasonable time to prepare. He instructed the prosecutor and the defense attorneys to prepare motions and set a status hearing for the Lara-Macias case for 4 to 5 p.m. April 11 and the status hearing for the Benson case for 2 to 3 p.m. April 17.
Both defendants, who were 16 when they allegedly killed Lewis in October, were in court for the preliminary hearing and both were wearing handcuffs and shackles that were attached by chains to chains around their waists.
Lara-Macias, an Englewood resident, sat in the jury box. He wore a black T-shirt and baggy green pants. He conferred with his public defenders, looked at their notes or looked at the opposite wall but never appeared to make eye contact with co-defendant Benson. Littleton resident Benson was sitting with his public defenders at the defense table. He was wearing a blue T-shirt and baggy green pants. He also appeared to make no eye contact with his co-defendant.
The preliminary hearing was held to determine if there was sufficient evidence to have the two suspects stand trial for the fatal shooting of Lewis.
The case began when Englewood Police received a call about 8:30 p.m. Oct. 1 of shots fired in the 3000 block of South Acoma Street. The officers found Lewis lying partially on his side with his feet in the gutter. He apparently had been shot and had no pulse.
The officers had no information about possible suspects, but investigators later got information and surveillance videos from nearby residents that showed a light-colored SUV or station wagon speeding away from the area. Detectives later identified the vehicle as a Jeep Grand Cherokee and also learned a Grand Cherokee had been stolen in Denver.
They also learned that the same Grand Cherokee was involved in a felony menacing incident in Westminster, the vehicle had been impounded and two 16-year-old suspects were arrested.
Other information tied the two Westminster suspects to the Englewood shooting. Englewood Detective Mike Fast testified that he interviewed Lara-Macias who agreed to tell him about what happened in Englewood. In the interview, Lara-Macias allegedly said he drove the Jeep and it was Benson who had done the shooting. That led to the filing of charges against the two suspects in the fatal shooting
During the pretrial hearing, Deputy District Attorney Rebecca Gleason presented the prosecution case. She called four witnesses, and Englewood Police Sgt. Davie LeClair, Westminster Detective Luis Lopez and Arapahoe County Coroner Kelly Lear-Kaul joined Fast in testifying. All witnesses were cross-examined by the defense team representing each client.
The judge ruled on all the legal issues raised and ordered the two defendants held without bond until they go on trial in the case.