Jose Alejandro faces up to 50 years in prison.
GOSHEN — An Elkhart Circuit Court jury found Jose Alejandro guilty of attempted murder Tuesday, April 23.
Alejandro, 21 of Elkhart, was arrested July 4, 2012, about a month after Flavio Contreras, then 19, was shot and severely wounded.
Alejandro faces a sentence of 50 years in prison. The prosecuting attorney is also seeking to add a criminal gang enhancement, which would double Alejandro’s sentence to a maximum of 100 years in prison.
The ongoing trial is a bifurcated trial, which means it has two phases. The first phase, which started Monday and continued Tuesday, was for the jury to determine whether Alejandro was guilty of the charge of attempted murder.
The second phase will go on tomorrow, for the jury to determine whether Alejandro should receive a criminal gang enhancement.
Several witnesses testified Tuesday, adding new information about the night of May 23, when Contreras was said to have been taken from his house and shot at a different location.
Contreras was at his home the night he was allegedly contacted by Alejandro, according to Contreras’s sister and mother.
Nancy Contreras, Flavio Contreras’s sister, told the court her family was up late watching TV the night of May 23, when they heard a knock on the door. Nancy said Alejandro came into the house after talking with Flavio Contreras at the door for a few minutes.
Sofia Ayala, Flavio Contreras’s mother, also testified, and said Alejandro told her he wanted Flavio to go with him for 30 minutes. Both men left and Nancy and her other siblings went to sleep.
Two hours later, Ayala woke Nancy up and told her Flavio had not returned. After calling different friends and acquaintances, including Alejandro, the family heard another knock on the door. A police officer had been sent to their house.
Ayala told the court that when she talked with Alejandro over the phone, he told her Flavio was with some other friends and that he did not know exactly where.
Flavio Contreras, who testified Tuesday afternoon, said when he opened the door the night of May 23, he saw Alejandro, who was looking for a friend of Contreras’s.
Contreras refused to tell Alejandro about his friend’s whereabouts, and that’s when Alejandro told him to go with him, threatening to shoot Contreras.
Alejandro took Contreras to a car that was waiting for them near Contreras’s house. In the car, Contreras saw three other individuals, though he only recognized one of them as “Eric.” Flavio said he was taken to a county road away from his house and was asked several times again where his friend was. After Contreras refused to tell, Alejandro handed the gun to “Eric” and that was when Flavio was shot. He was left on the side of the road in the early morning of May 24.
The court also heard from a physician who assessed Contreras’s injuries after he was shot.
Dr. Troy Clouse of Elkhart General Hospital worked the morning Contreras was admitted.
Clouse told the court Contreras received two gunshot wounds to his right arm and one to his abdomen. He said that had Contreras not received immediate help, he would have died from his wounds.
Contreras also received a superficial gunshot wound to the head and another bullet grazed his neck.
Although Contreras denied being part of a gang, he did acknowledge that he and his group of friends got into trouble a few times. That was some time before he was shot.
During his testimony, Contreras told the court he was involved with a group of friends who were part of a gang, Society’s Most Wanted, but that he himself was not involved. He said that while hanging out with this group of friends, he got involved in some fights years ago. He also said he got himself in trouble, and that he was placed on home detention.
He escaped by cutting his anklet and went to Mexico. He told the court that when he came back, by the end of 2012, he had no desire to get in trouble again.
Dennis Patino, a friend of Contreras, told the court Contreras was part of SMW, a “clique.” Patino also said Alejandro was a member of Latin Kings, but he did not believe gang affiliation had anything to do with his actions on May 23.
However, a printout of a Facebook page distributed as evidence showed a message Patino wrote that made references of gang affiliations. The message was posted some time before Contreras was shot.