More details about homicide investigation released by Springville police chief 01

Springville Police Chief Craig Martinez speaks to media members about the death of Lazaro Nieves-Morales on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. 

After searching for more than 48 hours to find the suspect who shot and killed a man early Sunday morning, Springville detectives arrested a Payson resident after using distinct evidence from the scene of the crime.

“We’re very, very confident that we have our shooter in custody in the Utah County Jail,” Craig Martinez, Springville Police chief, said during a press conference on Tuesday.

Martinez shared more details about the investigation undertaken by detectives who decided to forego sleep in favor of finding answers to the homicide case.

“We still have a couple of search warrants to serve on different things and a lot of people to interview with a lot of statements to go through,” Martinez said. “We have several businesses here in Springville who have supplied us video and we’re still combing through to see if it gives us any evidence.”

Investigators responded to reports of shots fired early Sunday morning and found the body of Lazaro Nieves-Morales, 29, underneath a train overpass close to 1600 South and 300 East in Springville.

The man was on his back and right side against a southern concrete wall and appeared to have been shot several times. There was fresh graffiti on the wall near the body, police reported, and more white graffiti paint was discovered on ground, including white tire tracks traveling away from the underpass.

During the investigation, officers learned Nieves-Morales reportedly left his basement apartment with a man around midnight on Sunday and drove away in a dark maroon sedan, according to the landlord who lived on the main floor of the residence.

Officers identified the man last seen with Nieves-Morales was Victor Hugo Contreras-Nathanson, 25, of Payson, and confirmed the two men knew one another.

Martinez said witness accounts varied as to who else was seen with Nieves-Morales, with some neighbors reporting they saw a woman traveling with them and others said there were three males.

Investigators are still trying to determine who else might have been with Nieves-Morales that night, he added.

On Monday, investigators found Contreras-Nathanson with a dark maroon sedan at a residence in Spanish Fork, according to the police report.

The vehicle had white paint on the passenger side and front tires, and other individuals at the residence told officers they spent several hours trying to scrub away the white paint at Contreras-Nathanson’s request.

In interviews with police, Contreras-Nathanson reportedly said there had been a firearm in the trunk of the vehicle but explained the gun was no longer there. Martinez confirmed detectives are still working to find the firearm.

He also reportedly said he spent Sunday drinking alcohol and smoking cocaine and methamphetamine with Nieves-Morales at his basement residence.

By 10 p.m., Contreras-Nathanson said he was so high, “he couldn’t remember anything that happened after that,” police reported. “When (he) was asked whether he could have shot Morales, Contreras-Nathanson indicated it was possible.”

Investigators determined the tire marks found at the scene where the body was found matched the tires of the vehicle belonging to Contreras-Nathanson.

“We hope that this resolution to this case will bring some hope and peace to the family of the victim,” Martinez said.

Contreras-Nathanson was booked into jail on a $250,000 bondable bail for suspicion of one first-degree felony of murder and one class A misdemeanor of obstruction of justice. Police reported he had no criminal history in Utah.

Ashley Stilson covers crime, courts and breaking news for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at 801-344-2556 or

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