Nearly three years after a home-invasion murder that shocked a quiet Goodyear neighborhood, three of the five suspects have admitted guilt.
Their first-degree murder charges in “a robbery gone bad” were reduced to second-degree murder.
Near the South Cotton Lane and West Van Buren Street hotbed of new homes, the corner of Morning Glory Street and 174th Drive is quiet and peaceful — except for the night of April 10, 2018.
After a group of armed men invaded his home, Antoine Rogers was shot dead here after trading bullets as he attempted to defend himself.
The 29-year-old father of two was found with multiple gunshot wounds.
Goodyear police found that a man with gunshot wounds went to Banner Estrella Hospital shortly after Rogers was killed. Police matched his blood with evidence left by the man Rogers shot, and arrested Joseph Adam Gutierrez, then 23.
Gutierrez, called “Monster” by his friends, and three others arrested by Goodyear police were tried together on first-degree murder charges.
Gutierrez and Miguel Zamora entered guilty pleas on second-degree murder charges in October.
Another accomplice, Gregory Ruiz, entered a guilty plea on second-degree murder Jan. 15.
The three may be sentenced this month.
The two remaining suspects, Anthony Perry Cornejo and Eduardo Menchaca Jr., still face first-degree murder charges, with trials scheduled next month.
Police apparently had little trouble linking the five, as each implicated others.
Though they stressed they did not intend to kill him, four of the five allegedly told police they took part in a plan to rob Rogers.
Indeed, police found $33,000 at Rogers’ home — and four pounds of methamphetamine, which could be sold for about $10,000.
Police tracked a gun left at Rogers’ home to Cornejo.
Goodyear police used a search warrant to enter Cornejo’s Phoenix apartment and arrest him a week after the killing.
According to probable cause reports prepared by Noah Yeo, a Goodyear detective, Cornejo at first denied any part in Rogers’ killing.
“He later admitted to being the driver of the red vehicle used during the commission of the offense and named Joseph Gutierrez (also known as ‘Monster’) as being present when the offense was committed.”
According to Yeo, Cornejo said he was to be paid $500 for driving to and from the crime scene, and that he stayed in the vehicle while the other three went to Rogers’ home. “Shortly after the other three males exited the vehicle, Cornejo said he heard gunshots and began panicking. Cornejo said the other three males jumped back into the car he was in and he found out that Gutierrez had been shot,” according to Yeo’s report.
“He said Gutierrez was screaming ‘I’m gonna die’ and one of the other two males told him he would be all right.”
Gutierrez was arrested after being released from the hospital.
“Gutierrez gave a confession, where he included Cornejo and Zamora’s involvement,” said Yeo’s report.
At first, Gutierrez allegedly told police “he has been lying low and was on the run because he violated his probation and had another (charge).” In 2013, Gutierrez was convicted of aggravated robbery and being a member of a street gang; he was 16 when he committed the crimes. He was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.
According to Yeo’s report, while the detective was interviewing Gutierrez, “He started to talk about (Rogers’ murder) without being prompted by investigators. Gutierrez stated about two weeks ago he ran into his acquaintance from prison (Zamora), in the area of 55th Avenue and McDowell Road. Zamora, 27, gave Gutierrez his phone number and advised him about a ‘lick’ for ‘60 racks.’ Gutierrez advised a ‘lick’ was a robbery and ‘60 racks’ was $60,000. Gutierrez stated he was going to get a cut of the money for his involvement.”
Gutierrez allegedly told the Goodyear investigators he took Cornejo’s AK47 into Rogers’ home. Soon after he entered the home, he saw a man come around the corner, “which scared Gutierrez and caused him to shoot (Rogers).” He said he saw the man he shot fall, then “heard two more shots and realized his arm had been shot.”
He said he ran out of the house, then saw Zamora shoot at the house and the woman.
Gutierrez also “picked Miguel Zamora out of a photographic line-up as being the Miguel he was referring to.”
Using this, Goodyear police obtained a warrant to search Zamora’s Phoenix home. There, they found 40 rifles “and multiple silencers” — as well as bullets matching the ones used at the Goodyear murder scene.
Phoenix police arrested Zamora April 21, 2018. He was convicted of a drive-by shooting in 2009, when he was 17.
From Zamora’s phone record, Goodyear investigators learned he was in contact with Menchaca shortly before Rogers was killed.
Goodyear police arrested Menchaca, who gave an Avondale address as his residence, on April 25, 2018.
After first asking to have a lawyer, according to Yeo’s report, “Menchaca self-initiated contact with me from his holding cell. Menchaca told me he wanted to speak without a lawyer present. … Menchaca explained that he was involved in, set up and facilitated the robbery gone bad. Menchaca advised he was notified about (Rogers) having a large amount of U.S. currency. He coordinated with Miguel Zamora to gather suspects to accomplish the robbery.”
During his interview, Menchaca allegedly told police Ruiz was involved in the crime, and gave them Ruiz’s Glendale address.
On April 27, Ruiz was the last of the five alleged to have taken part in the killing to be arrested. According to the police report, investigators found multiple firearms, $18,000 and 50 pounds of marijuana at the residence where Ruiz was arrested.
According to a police report, Ruiz “confessed to setting up the robbery with Eduardo Menchaca and that their intent was not to kill (Rogers) but to take his money.”
Ruiz allegedly told investigators he had been directed by “an unnamed source in Mexico” to collect money Rogers owed.