GEORGETOWN - Prosecutors wrapped up a 2-year-old cold case Monday, after the second suspect in the 2010 shooting of Conrad Crall accepted a plea deal.
Jesus Reyna, 29, of the Denver area, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder after admitting he drove a second killer and the victim up to Georgetown from the Front Range and helped shoot Crall to death just off Interstate 70.
Second-degree murder carries a penalty of up to 48 years in prison, but as part of the plea agreement, District Attorney Bruce Brown said he will not push for a sentence of more than 30 years.
The other shooter, 37-year-old Shawn Sheeley, also a Front Range resident, also pleaded guilty to second-degree murder earlier this month after first giving law enforcement a statement that led to the arrest of another man last year.
Both men were initially charged with first-degree murder because the killing was planned in advance. Reyna and Sheeley reportedly lured Crall into the car with them in Denver and drove him up to the location near Georgetown where he was shot.
Prosecutors offered the plea deal even though defense counsel said in court Monday he believed Reyna would have been convicted of first-degree murder if the case had gone to trial. An arrest affidavit indicates Reyna confessed his part in the shooting to investigators last year.
But Brown said there still was no guarantee a jury would return a guilty verdict.
"Trials always have an inherent amount of unreliability in the outcome," Brown said. "But in assessing the guilt of individuals we try to take into consideration all of the circumstances. We feel satisfied that even given the gravity of this crime that a sentence of three decades is as close as we can come to a just result."
Several members of Crall's family attended the hearing Monday. Brown spoke with them before finalizing the plea deal.
Defense attorney Donald Lozow said he wasn't happy with the deal, as Reyna played a secondary role in the crime, but pleaded to the same charge as Sheeley.
"I have substantial disagreement with what was said and done in this case," Lozow said. "But I'm in a Catch-22 situation. This defendant could easily be found guilty of murder."
Residents discovered the body of 31-year-old Conrad Keith Crall, an occasional mechanic and resident of Kiowa, on Oct. 9, 2010 as they were hiking around their property, according to press reports at the time.
He was lying face down just yards from I-70, shot three times by two different firearms. The fatal shot hit him in the head and the death was ruled a homicide, an arrest affidavit for Reyna states.
Investigators soon discovered the last time Crall had been seen alive was in late September, nearly three weeks prior. He'd been working on the car of an acquaintance and had left to meet someone with whom he seemed to be angry, saying the person was going to return some of his belongings.
Detectives pulled Crall's cellphone records and found he'd been in touch with a number belonging to Sheeley the day he was last seen. That was also the day all outgoing activity on his phone stopped.
But it was unclear whether Sheeley had actually been in possession of his phone the day investigators were beginning to suspect Crall had been murdered, and the case eventually ran cold.
Two years later, in March of 2012, investigators got back in touch with the phone company and discovered something more interesting than phone records. Using cellphone towers to track the locations of the two devices, authorities realized Crall and Sheeley's phones had apparently come closer and closer together the day he was apparently killed and then moved together up the Interstate 70 corridor toward Georgetown and then back down again, according to the affidavit.
Investigators met with Sheeley, who was in jail on an unrelated charge, and he spun a story that starred Thomas Claeys - a man who had dated Crall's mother and was, according to several accounts, a methamphetamine user and gun owner who openly hated Crall - as the killer, the affidavit states.
Sheeley said Claeys had threatened him into accompanying him up to the mountains, where he shot and killed Crall himself with two different weapons.
But another witness told a different story, saying Sheeley had bragged about killing Crall himself with the help of another man nicknamed "Sleepy."
Sleepy turned out to be Reyna, who later admitted to driving Sheeley to meet Crall at a Denver gas station and then transporting the three of them up I-70 to the Clear Creek location where Crall was shot, according to the affidavit.
Neither man's motive for the murder is clear in the affidavit. Reyna reportedly told authorities Sheeley wanted to kill Crall because he'd stolen a woman's purse, which contained valuable items. Reyna said he'd agreed to drive him to the mountains for gas money.
He reportedly said they both had used methamphetamines.
Claeys was cleared of all charges.
Both Sheeley and Reyna are set for sentencing next month.