Daniel Salazar, 25, of Grants, was found not guilty of murder and tampering with evidence in the Oct. 5, 2010, death of Rex Yazzie, 41, of Gallup after a two days of testimony and about two hours of deliberation by a Cibola County jury on Friday, the Cibola Beacon reported.
Children found Yazzie’s body on their way to school, dead of blunt trauma to the head, and Salazar was arrested 10 days later in Yazzie’s death, the Beacon said.
Police said Salazar and Yazzie had been staying at a home in Milan when an alcohol-fueled fight broke out, and medical investigators concluded that Yazzie died some time between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. Oct. 5, 2010, according to the paper.
Prosecutor Hubert Gray of the 13th Judicial District told jurors in closing that Salazar crushed Yazzie’s head with a 20-pound rock because he was angry about an exchange of words, the Beacon said.
“He admitted in on tape,” Gray said of Salazar.
But Salazar’s attorney, Daniel Salazar (no relation), urged jurors not to believe that if someone admits to a crime it means he committed it, the Beacon said.
“It is done so often that people even write books about it,” Salazar told jurors. “People do it all the time when they are interrogated. They admit to a crime they did not commit.”
Salazar went on to blame what he called a poor investigation done by the Milan Police Department, and jurors apparently agreed.