Meanwhile, co-suspect Juan Garza reaches plea deal to avoid trial
By ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times
The trial for the third suspect in an alleged carjacking last January has been delayed, and the last suspect has pleaded guilty to charges.
Jurors for the case involving Matthew Perez, 27, were sent home Wednesday morning shortly after arriving at the Seward County Courthouse because attorneys for the state could not find a material witness.
A warrant has been put out for the witness, who court authorities asked not to be identified. After selecting from four panels Tuesday, District Judge Clint Peterson sent the chosen jurors home for the day just after 3 p.m., at which time Peterson and attorneys for both the state and defendant discussed trying to find the witness. Peterson gave the prosecution until Wednesday morning to find the witness, and when Assistant District Attorney Russell Hasenbank told the judge he could not find the person, Peterson dismissed the jury.
Hasenbank informed Peterson that the witness would have testified about a series of events in the case. Perez’s trial has now been put on the court docket for April 18 through 21.
Meanwhile, Juan Garza, 26, a fellow suspect in the alleged carjacking, has pleaded guilty to one count each of kidnapping and aggravated robbery. His sentencing is set for 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 28.
Garza and Perez, along with Jose Gil, 25, and Bobby Stensland, 19, were arrested between Jan. 29, 2010, and March 1, 2010, by authorities in Ford and Finney counties, according to a statement from Liberal Police Capt. Pat McClurg.
Those arrests came following the alleged Jan. 10, 2010, incident in which a handicapped victim was forced out of his vehicle without his wheelchair and had to crawl for help.
The victim’s Blazer was later recovered in Finney County.
Stensland’s case was tried in November, but after jurors could not agree on some of the charges, Peterson declared a mistrial. That case will again be heard in February.
Gil was convicted in November of one count each of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery. He was sentenced to 281 months in the Seward County Jail.