(UPDATED) In opening statements for the murder trial of Humberto Lorenzo-Diaz, attorneys described a complex web of connections surrounding a reported feud, kidnapping, and ransom that allegedly resulted in the March 2009 murder of a 22-year-old man who came to Georgia to sell drugs.
During opening statements, Rockdale County Assistant District Attorney Miguel Dominguez described the complicated trail of connections Rockdale County Sheriff's Office Investigator Glen Cannon discovered during the course of the case.
Dominguez said, "(Cannon) was able to determine that Raul Ramirez was kidnapped as a result of an ongoing feud between an individual by the name of Lalo and the defendant. He was able to determine that the victim actually worked for Lalo. As the feud was occuring between the defendant and Lalo, our victim was kidnapped, ransomed, and when that ransom was not paid, he was shot and murdered in Rockdale County." Ramirez was shot 24 times.
"He was left on Lake Capri Road so a message would be sent to his family. They were hoping his family would see him as they traveled on Lake Capri Road."
Dominguez went on to describe an inmate in Jefferson County who told investigators he had information on the murder. The apartment address provided by the inmate was also the location of a domestic violence shooting in May 2009 involving Humberto Lorenzo-Diaz. The gun used in the domestic violence shooting, a custom made HK 9 mm, matched the bullets in the body of Raul Ramirez.
Investigators were also able to track down an man described as the driver, Dennis Pinera, who was allegedly with Raul Ramirez in the days before he was kidnapped.
"When he spoke to us, he spoke to us reluctantly," said Dominguez. "Even today, I don't know if he will share with you the jurors what he shared with us. So we'll have to take his testimony when he comes up."
Defense attorney Mark Issa, representing Lorenzo-Diaz along with attorney Ash Joshi, said during opening statements, "The nugget would be if I could tell you they're paying these guys to make this testimony. I won't tell you that. This (district attorney's) office is very ethical... I'm proud these are the individuals trying this case."
However, Issa continued, "These people aren't paid money. They're paid in years. Their testimony is coming at a price, in years of their sentences."
He said, "The truth is, the similar stories don't make it true. These are all individuals, none of which will say 'I was there. I saw it.' These are individuals who are going to say, 'this is what I heard'... When this is done, the questions that will come to your minds will still be there and the answers will not."
The trial continued Tuesday afternoon with testimony from Rockdale County Sheriff's Office deputies and Crime Scene Investigators and forensics experts.
The prosecution passed around a picture of the victim's bloodied face and head, which had been shot, among the jurors.
Defendant Lorenzo-Diaz, 33, who listened to testimony through a translator, sat back and stretched slightly as pictures of the victim's body and crime scene were entered into evidence. When the handgun alleged to be the murder weapon was entered into evidence, his eyes followed the object closely.
The victim's mother, Rosalea Ramirez, began weeping on the stand as she described how she had searched local hospitals for her son.
The jury also heard from a Norcross woman who had filed a missing persons report on Raul Ramirez days before he was found dead.
Jenny Sanchez initially told Gwinnett County police that Raul Ramirez was a friend of hers but later admitted to RCSO investigators she didn't know him and had reported the kidnapping as a favor to "Lalo," a customer of hers at the restaurant where she worked. She said Lalo told her he had problems with the police and couldn't report it himself and didn't have the $150,000 ransom the kidnappers were asking. She said he did not pay her to file the report.
"I didn't know who (Raul) was, but it was a life I wanted to help," she said, through a translator. "What I know is that (Lalo) used me."
Check back for more on this developing story.