In light of new evidence, a district judge ordered a Payson man accused of fatally shooting a man in Springville last month to be held at the Utah County Jail without bail.
Victor Hugo Contreras-Nathanson, 25, was charged in 4th District Court with murder after officers found the body of Lazaro Morales, 29, under a train overpass near southern Springville in September.
Investigators did not find bullet casings at the scene, but did discover fresh graffiti, a footprint, tire tracks and white paint near the body, a Springville Police Department detective testified during a court hearing on Tuesday.
He explained officers obtained a search warrant and found a pair of shoes at Contreras-Nathanson’s home in Payson that matched the footprint discovered at the overpass.
Packaging and ammunition for a 9mm handgun, the same type of firearm used in the shooting, was also recovered at the residence. But investigators still have yet to find the handgun reportedly used.
“If he was released, he could potentially have access to that handgun,” Judge Roger Griffin said on Tuesday, adding Contreras-Nathanson qualifies as a substantial danger to the community.
Contreras-Nathanson reportedly bought the handgun legally in Spanish Fork on Christmas Eve in 2017, according to charges.
Officers learned through cellphone records that before the shooting, Contreras-Nathanson spent hours at Morales’ residence in Springville consuming alcohol and drugs, including cocaine.
A little after midnight on Sept. 22, the two men left the residence and went to the train overpass, charges state. Morales “appears to have been in the act of ‘tagging’ a concrete pillar when (he) was shot at least 4 times with a 9mm handgun.”
“One of the bullets struck the victim’s heart, killing him almost instantly,” police reported.
Investigators determined the suspect had left the scene in a vehicle and ran over a white spray paint can, causing it to explode and cover the suspect’s vehicle in white paint.
Contreras-Nathanson was arrested the next day at a Spanish Fork residence with a maroon Nissan Maxima. He had tried to clean the white paint off the vehicle but investigators found paint on the front tires. The tread also reportedly matched the tire tracks found at the scene.
In interviews with police, Contreras-Nathanson reportedly said he spent most of the previous night with Morales using cocaine, methamphetamine and alcohol. He also said there had been a .380 handgun in the trunk of his vehicle, but the firearm wasn’t there anymore, according to charges.
He reportedly said he was so high that he blacked out and doesn’t remember anything after 10 p.m. and “it was possible” he shot and killed Morales, police reported.
Contreras-Nathanson is also facing charges for obstructing justice, a second-degree felony; possession of a firearm by a restricted person; and two class A misdemeanors for possession of controlled substances.
The next court hearing is set for October 29.