PHOENIX (AP) — A jury convicted an Arizona man of murder Monday for killing his brother in a drug dispute and then gunning down his 6-year-old nephew, who witnessed the death.
Jurors rejected Christopher Rey Licon’s insanity defense and will now determine whether he will be sentenced to death or life in prison for the December 2010 killing of his nephew, Xavier Jaquez. The jury deliberated for more than seven days before finding Licon, 24, guilty of first-degree murder and kidnapping in Xavier’s death.
Jurors convicted Licon of second-degree murder in the death of his half-brother, Angel Jaquez. He faces 16 to 25 years in prison in Angel Jaquez’s death. The trial’s sentencing phase begins Tuesday.
Licon, dressed in a tie and dark suit and sporting a shaved head, stared straight ahead at the judge while the verdict was read without looking at the jury.
He shot his brother in the back of the head as Jaquez watched TV at their Phoenix townhome, then kidnapped the child — Jaquez’s son — and shot him 20 miles away in an alley, authorities said.
Licon was accused of killing his nephew out of fear that the child would snitch on him because the boy heard or saw his father die.
The boy, surrounded by a pool of blood, was still wearing his school uniform and had a Burger King kid’s meal nearby when his body was found by sanitation workers. He also was shot in the back of the head.
Licon, who provided an alibi to investigators, did not testify at his trial.
His attorney, James Wilson, told jurors that his client was in the throes of a psychotic episode on the day of the deaths. Wilson said Licon had lost weight, experienced hallucinations and became detached and uncommunicative around the time of the killings.
Prosecutor Laura Reckart argued Licon had not proven that he suffered from a mental illness that would have prevented him from understanding that his actions were wrong. She said Licon was well-aware of his actions when he carried out the killings and took steps to protect himself, such as breaking into an apartment to stash the handgun used in the crimes.
Authorities say a neighbor witnessed Licon dragging his nephew into a car that would be used to bring the child to the alley where he was killed.
Licon, then a construction management student at Arizona State University, told investigators that he was studying at a library in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe at the time that his half-brother was killed. He said he came home to find his brother’s body in the townhome.
But authorities say Licon’s alibi collapsed quickly after they interviewed neighbors and gathered other evidence.
Authorities say two key pieces of evidence were found inside the car used to bring the boy to the alley: a 9 mm bullet casing that matched a casing found at Jaquez’s home and a toy from the Burger King kid’s meal.
Prosecutors say Licon was in an illegal drug business with his half-brother and acknowledged selling drugs in the months before both deaths.
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