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State v. Salazar

Court of Appeals of Utah

October 18, 2019

State of Utah, Appellee,
v.
Eddie A. Salazar, Appellant.

          Third District Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable Keith A. Kelly No. 171901573

          Andrea J. Garland, Attorney for Appellant

          Sean D. Reyes, Nathan D. Anderson, and Lindsey L. Wheeler, Attorneys for Appellee

          Judge Michele M. Christiansen Forster authored this Opinion, in which Judges Kate Appleby and Diana Hagen concurred.

          OPINION

          CHRISTIANSEN FORSTER, JUDGE

         ¶1 Eddie A. Salazar was convicted by a jury of burglary and theft. He now appeals, seeking a new trial. We affirm.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         ¶2 On July 6, 2015, Salazar and his wife (Wife) drove Steve Young, whom they had just met that day, to a house in Cottonwood Heights, Utah. When they arrived at the house, Young got out of the car and knocked on the front door. When no one answered, Young climbed over the fence to the backyard and kicked in the basement door. Once inside, Young stole sunglasses, a money clip, a microcassette recorder, jewelry, and some medication that he hoped to be painkillers. While Young was inside the house, a witness (Witness) observed a car slowly driving up and down the road in front of the house. Witness noted that the driver had his seat leaning back and that the car was not in the normal lane of traffic but was "against the curb." Young then ran from the side of the house, got in the car, and "told [Salazar] to hurry up."

         ¶3 Witness saw the car speed up to meet Young as he ran from the house, noting that the car "sped off" once Young "jumped in the car." Witness followed the car in his truck and called the police. Young noticed the truck, and he suspected that Witness was "probably going to come and try to get [his] property back." Young first testified that he told Salazar and Wife that he "stole some stuff," but he later clarified that he told Salazar and Wife, "[T]hese guys [in the truck] are going to come beat me up because I got my stuff out of the house," implying that he had retrieved only his own property.[2] Witness described Salazar's driving as "erratic" and "reckless," and he eventually stopped following the car because Salazar "was speeding . . . faster than what [he] thought was safe."[3]

         ¶4 Salazar then pulled into a nearby gas station. Young handed Wife the pills that he had just stolen and asked her to throw them away. Young said he did not tell Wife that they were stolen or the reason he wanted her to throw them away, just that he "didn't want them." Surveillance footage from the gas station showed Young reaching out of the car and handing something to Wife as she got out of the car. The footage then showed Wife walk to a trash can and throw something away. Later that same day, the police recovered prescription pills-with the name of the homeowner whose house Young burglarized-from the same gas station trash can depicted in the surveillance video.

         ¶5 A detective, who heard a report of the burglary, observed a vehicle with three occupants matching the description given by dispatch. The detective stopped that vehicle, and Witness joined the detective to confirm that the car and its three occupants were those whom Witness had seen fleeing the burglarized house. After advising them of their Miranda rights, [4] the detective interviewed Salazar, Wife, and Young.

         ¶6 Salazar told the detective that he drove Young to the house, after which Young "exited the car and was gone for a few minutes." Salazar said that when Young returned he was "carrying some items." Salazar said he was unsure what Young was doing in the house, but he "assumed that [Young] had stolen something." As they were driving away from the house, Salazar said he "observed a vehicle that he believed was following him or chasing him," so "he then began to drive a little faster in an attempt to lose the tailing vehicle." Salazar said that they then stopped at a gas station for fuel.

         ¶7 Wife's account, with the addition of some details, largely corroborated Salazar's account. Wife referred to Young as their "friend." Wife confirmed that after arriving at the gas station, Young handed her some pills, which she thought belonged to the homeowner and which she discarded.

         ¶8 Young initially told the detective that Salazar and Wife had just picked him up at the gas station, but after being confronted with Salazar's and Wife's accounts of the event, Young admitted to breaking into the house and "looking for items to steal." The State charged Salazar with one count of burglary and one count of theft. ...


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