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Opening statements begin in restaurant murder trial

New details revealed today in court

YUMA, Ariz. - Opening statements began Friday in the trial of 47-year-old Modesto Cortes-Serrillo, the man charged with premeditated first-degree murder in the killing of another man outside a Yuma restaurant in 2014.

In the trial, that is expected to last three weeks, the prosecution will try to prove that Cortes-Serrillo planned the murder. The defense will argue that it was not planned and that it happened out of anger. Several witnesses will take the stand, including the main investigator in the case as well as several witnesses who were inside the restaurant eating when the murder happened.

THE PROSECUTION

State prosecutors began opening statements with surveillance video from Lin's Grand Buffet of the day of the shooting. The video shows Cortes-Serrillo fatally shooting the victim, 43-year-old Santiago Olivo-Diaz, the evening of April 13, 2014. There were family members and other people on the jury crying during the chilling video.

The prosecution then presented a timeline of the events leading up to the murder. They say as of December 2013, Cortes-Serrillo had been married to his wife for 24 years, but that he moved in with his daughter Daisy Cortes. 

They said in January 2014 the defendant was no longer living with his wife. That's when the wife started dating the victim. They also said in that same month one of Cortes-Serrillo's sons found Facebook messages of his mother talking to the victim and took some screenshots. 

In February of 2014, they said his wife filed for divorce. They also said that Cortes-Serrillo had told his wife if he ever saw her with another man he would kill her. That was also the month that he found out she was dating the victim because his son showed him the Facebook messages he had taken as screenshots in January. 

In March of that year, the prosecution said Modesto started dating another woman. They said he called her constantly and that he would show up unexpectedly to her home. They said this woman said he would do anything to be in a relationship.

The prosecution said the day of the murder Cortes-Serrillo wanted to use his girlfriend's vehicle to go to Lin's Grand Buffet, but that she didn't want to go. They believe he wanted to use her car because his wife didn't recognize it. Eventually, they did end up taking his girlfriend's vehicle to the restaurant, where the victim and Cortes-Serrillo's wife were eating.

The jury was then shown surveillance video of the incident. In the video, you can see where Cortes-Serrillo was sitting in proximity to his wife and the victim. They were only several tables apart, but the defense said that Cortes-Serrillo had a clear view of the couple. The prosecution said several witnesses will take the stand to talk about how long he was staring at the couple.

According to the prosecution, Cortes-Serrillo told his girlfriend he had to go to the restroom. When he came back he went to his wife, and the confrontation started. The prosecution said it started with an argument and escalated to Cortes-Serrillo kicking the victim in the head and trying to stab him with a fork.  The brawl moved to different parts of the restaurant. The jury saw surveillance video that showed this activity. 

The prosecution said the manager followed the two men outside the restaurant. That's when the defendant told him that he was that woman's husband. According to the defense, witnesses thought the fight was over at that point, but it was far from over.

Cortes-Serrillo went to his girlfriend's car, where he pulled out a gun and a magazine to reload the weapon. The jury then saw surveillance video of Modesto-Cortes fatally shooting the victim outside of the restaurant, right by the restaurant's entrance. He then reloaded the weapon but didn't fire it again. The prosecution then said that he told his wife if he ever saw her with another man, he would kill both her and whoever she was with. 

The victim was shot four times, with at least one of those shots hitting him in the head.

The prosecution said the defendant called a coworker and asked him if he could take him to Mexico, but that the coworker said no. He will be a witness in this trial.

The prosecution then said Modesto-Cortes called his daughter Daisy and convinced her to take him to Mexico in her car. They then said he met his two sons in Mexico and gave one of them the weapon used during the crime as well as the magazine. They also gave him money, according to the defense. They also said that he got two bus tickets with two different names in order to try and evade law enforcement. He also called his girlfriend and told her to go move with him so they could start a family, but the girlfriend said no. She will also be taking the witness stand.

THE DEFENSE

The defense said they will prove that this was not a case of premeditated first-degree murder, that is was done out of rage after Cortes-Serrillo saw his wife with another man. 

They said the witnesses they saw how angry and upset the defendant was in the restaurant.  

They also had their timeline of events. They said in late 2013 to early 2014 gifts started showing up at Cortes-Serrillo's home for his wife. She told him they were from someone that worked with her and that this made him upset, especially since he had legalized her to live in the country 24 years ago and had worked hard for his family. They did acknowledge that Cortes-Serrillo threatened her, but said he never followed up on the threats.

They also said that his girlfriend said he was sad due to the situation with his wife and that he needed someone to talk to.

They also said that Cortes-Serrillo was familiar with guns and that he was licensed to carry a weapon. They also said he was always armed. 

The defense said the day of the murder Cortes-Serrillo did not want to drive because he was tired, and that's why he wanted to take his girlfriend's car. She didn't want to drive it, so he ended up driving her vehicle.  They also said he didn't know that the couple would be at Lin's Grand Buffet. 

They believe that the murder was not planned and that when he saw the couple he became angry and was already dealing with the feeling of being betrayed.

Opening statements lasted about an hour.

The first witnesses will take the stand Friday afternoon.

Keep it tuned to News 11 and to our website for the latest details on this trial.


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