Las Vegas jurors deliberate double murder suspect’s fate

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Manuel Mata III sent his girlfriend, Maria Flores, an ominous text message two days before prosecutors say he fatally shot her and her 17-year-old daughter and fired a bullet into her 4-year-old daughter’s neck.

He knew that Flores wanted out of their rocky three-year relationship, prosecutor John Giordani told jurors during closing arguments of Mata’s capital murder trial on Friday.

Flores had packed suitcases and taken their pictures down from the wall of their home in the 5500 block of Cotton Street in east Las Vegas.

Along with images of stuffed suitcases and picture frames on carpet, prosecutor John Giordani flashed the text message on a screen for jurors.

“I’m never gonna let you go,” the message sent on May 30, 2013, read. “Your stuck with me forever.”

Giordani suggested that Mata had already decided to kill Flores.

“She’s done. She’s done,” Giordani said. “And he knows it. He knew it was over. He wasn’t going to let her leave.”

Around dawn on June 1, 2013, Flores and the teen, Elizabeth Gomez, were dead, while Flores’ younger child, Sophia Trujillo, was critically wounded.

After shooting the three, Mata fired a shotgun blast into his chin and survived with a facial deformity, prosecutors have said.

His defense attorneys have acknowledged Mata shot himself, but argued that an intruder killed Flores and her daughter and shot the younger child before Mata arrived home and discovered the crime scene.

One of Mata’s lawyers, Gary Modafferi, pointed to testimony from Mata’s daughter, who said she heard gunfire and hid in her closet. She was unharmed.

“Manny didn’t do this,” Modafferi told jurors. “There’s one eyewitness to this crime, and she says Manny didn’t do this.”

He also argued that video surveillance from a neighbor’s home had captured Mata pulling into the house, but investigators destroyed the footage.

Jurors deliberated two counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder with use of a deadly weapon, one count of trafficking in a controlled substance and three counts of possession of a stolen firearm. The deliberations are scheduled to resume Monday morning.

If he is convicted of first-degree murder, prosecutors are expected to ask the same panel to send him to death row.

The youngest child also survived and still suffers from physical and mental disabilities, prosecutors have said.

Throughout the trial, prosecutors tried to show that Mata had become increasingly angry and jealous in their relationship. Investigators found 41 grams of cocaine in the home, along with 13 firearms, including three stolen weapons. Prosecutors said that Mata had financial troubles and had been drinking heavily before the shooting.

Mata’s then 18-year-old daughter, Xcliklalis Mata, testified this week that she hid in her bedroom closet after hearing gunshots and called her grandfather, Mata’s father.

After the shots rang out, she said, she looked out her bedroom window and saw her father walk into the home.

As police entered, Mata aimed his shotgun at officers, according to Giordani and officers’ testimony.

The officers said they did not fire at him, because they did not know whether Flores was still alive.

Prosecutor Marc DiGiacomo argued that Mata tried to avoid justice by shooting himself.

“He wanted those cops to shoot him,” DiGiacomo said. “And why? Because he wanted to escape what he had done.”

Contact David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Find @randompoker on Twitter.

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