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Jury selection begins in trial of men accused in fatal bombing

Jury selection began Monday in the death penalty trial of two men accused of setting a homemade bomb inside a Luxor parking garage that killed one man in 2007.

Omar Rueda-Denvers and Porfirio Duarte-Herrera face charges related to building and planting the pipe bomb that killed Willebaldo Dorantes Antonio. Authorities say Dorantes Antonio, a 24-year-old employee at Nathan’s Famous hot dog restaurant in the Luxor food court, was in a relationship with Rueda-Denvers’ ex-girlfriend Caren Chali.

Both men have pleaded not guilty to charges that include murder with use of a deadly weapon and attempted murder.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for both defendants, who are illegal immigrants, according to investigators. Rueda-Denvers is Panamanian and Duarte-Herrera is Nicaraguan, authorities said.

Court records show both defendants have confessed to some role in the bombing. Duarte-Herrera told investigators that Rueda-Denvers came to him and asked him to build the bomb. He said he didn’t know who it would be used against.

Rueda-Denvers told investigators that he and Duarte-Herrera drove together to the Luxor’s Strip location on May 7, 2007, the day of the bombing.

The bomb was triggered when Dorantes Antonio tried to remove a Styrofoam coffee cup from the top of his car. The trial is expected to include graphic photographs of the victim’s wounds, which caused some debate during pretrial motions. Jurors will probably see photos of Dorantes Antonio’s hands minus the fingers that were blown off and an X-ray of the bomb shrapnel in his forehead.

The bomb consisted of a gunpowder-filled pipe placed inside a Styrofoam cup that also contained spray foam insulation and a 9-volt battery, which acted as the power source.

It’s unclear whether Chali, the lone eyewitness to the explosion, will testify in person at trial.

Chali was with Dorantes Antonio when he was killed. The couple was leaving the Luxor, where they worked in the food court. She was unharmed and led investigators to Rueda-Denvers, who also uses the name Alexander Perez.

Chali’s name appeared on the prosecution’s witness list of 60 names, but she was probably deported to Guatemala after giving her testimony in November 2007. Federal authorities said she also was in the country illegally.

Her testimony, including cross-examination, was taped and will be shown to the jury in her absence.

Chali had dated Dorantes Antonio for about 10 months. She also has a child with Rueda-Denvers, and he wanted her back, she told police.

Dorantes Antonio, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, had told a supervisor that he had been warned to stop dating Chali and was nervous about the threats, according to court records.

The jury will not hear about several other bombings that authorities believe Duarte-Herrera might have been responsible for, including a bombing at a Las Vegas Home Depot on Halloween in 2006, one in the desert, one at a local tattoo parlor and one in Nicaragua.

Judge Michael Villani said those incidents could not be brought up during the trial because they did not have a bearing on the case. Charges against Duarte-Herrera relating to the Home Depot bombing were severed from this case, according to court records.

Jury selection will continue today. The trial is expected to last about two weeks.

 

Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039.

 

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