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Banks man, convicted of murder; now may face death sentence

A Washington County jury will decide this week whether Petronilo Lopez Minjarez receives the death penalty or life in prison

A Banks man's life is in the hands of his peers this week as a Washington County jury deliberates whether to hand out the death penalty for his role in a murder.

Petronilo Lopez Minjarez, 27, was convicted Friday on 12 charges related to the 2004 death of Darvin Lopez Jovel. Among the charges: six counts of aggravated murder, two counts of felony murder, two counts of first degree burglary and one count each of first degree kidnapping and second degree assault.

On Tuesday, prosecutors began their case to have Lopez Minjarez put to death. Public defenders will lobby for either life in prison or a life sentence with parole eligibility in 30 years.

According to testimony during the week-long trial, Lopez Jovel's father was allegedly having an affair with Lopez Minjarez's mother. On the night of Nov. 20, 2004, Lopez Minjarez and his father, Petronilo Lopez Lopez, drove to the Lopez Jovel home in Aloha, ostensibly to confront the victim's father about the affair. Instead, they found Lopez Jovel, 18, home alone.

Investigators from the Washington County Sheriff's Department testified that it was Lopez Lopez who shot the victim in his house after finding that the youth's father wasn't home. An arrest warrant has been issued for Lopez Lopez, who fled to Mexico after the murder.

Evidence showed that after being shot, Lopez Jovel walked outside to Lopez Minjarez's truck. His remains were found scattered off a logging road near Banks almost a year after the murder.

Lopez Minjarez maintains that he was hiding in the restroom of the North Plains McDonalds when his father drove away with Lopez Jovel and returned 40 minutes later by himself.

A witness, however, testified that he saw two men forcing Lopez Jovel into a truck on the night in question. He called 9-1-1 with the truck's license plate number, and sheriff's deputies arrived at Lopez Minjarez's house around midnight to find the defendant intoxicated and aggravated.

Investigators later found the victim's blood on Lopez Minjarez's shirt, pants and throughout his truck.