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Vergara jurors hear details of fatal drug deal

Death penalty trial continues today

POSTED: August 27, 2008 5:01 a.m.
SARA GUEVARA /The Times

Defendent Ignacio Vergara listens to testimony from Hall County Sheriff's crime scene investigator Cameron Durham in superior court Friday.

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Hall County jurors got a glimpse into the shady underworld of cocaine trafficking Friday in the death penalty trial of Ignacio Vergara.

Vergara, 26, is charged in the March 2002 shooting deaths of two Mexican nationals allegedly killed for 2 kilograms of cocaine.

On Friday, jurors heard from the man who set the victims up with the drugs.

Miguel Bueno of Lawrenceville sat with a stern expression in the witness stand and spoke barely above a whisper in Spanish as an interpreter translated his responses to questions posed by Assistant District Attorney Alison Toller and defense attorney Lee Parks.

Bueno, who was the cousin of murder victim Alejandro "Nino" Santana, reluctantly confirmed that he set up a deal with an associate who would supply him with the drugs at a guaranteed price of $18,500 per kilogram. Bueno's cousin, who was later shot to death on a remote gravel road near Flowery Branch, was to pick up the drugs and deliver them to a third party.

Bueno said he worked for one drug dealer nicknamed "Carrufos" who would pay him between $500 and $1,000 to drive cars carrying drugs from Atlanta to other parts of Georgia. The witness claimed he never saw the drugs because they were hidden in secret compartments.

Bueno said the same dealer called him the day before his cousin was killed, looking for "dos muchachos," or "two guys," the code name for 2 kilograms. Bueno said he made a call to another dealer the next day and brokered the deal.

Santana, the murder victim, agreed to pick up the package because Bueno's son was having surgery that day, Bueno testified. He said the dealer worried because Santana drove his Mitsubishi Eclipse too fast and might attract police. Bueno assured the dealer that he would take responsibility if something happened to the cocaine.

The delivery was to net Bueno and his cousin $400 each. Instead, his cousin was killed, the drugs were stolen and he owed the dealer $37,000.

Bueno said he was forced to give the dealer some property he owned in Mexico and begin working as drug-delivering "mule" without pay.

"What would he do if you didn't pay off your debt?" Toller asked Bueno.

"He would kill me and my family," Bueno said.

Bueno is not in custody. Neither District Attorney Lee Darragh nor Parks, Vergara's lawyer, would comment on whether Bueno had been promised immunity from prosecution.

Also Friday, jurors saw photographs of the two victims soon after their violent deaths and later at autopsy. Santana was reclined in the driver's seat, his left leg out of the open door, dead from gunshot wounds to the chest and neck. His friend Francisco "Chico Pancho" Saucedo was slumped over in the back seat, a bullet wound in his neck just below the right ear and another wound in his leg.

Medical examiner John Parker said Santana also had multiple fractures to the skull and bleeding on the brain from blunt force trauma.

Brigido Soto, the admitted gunman in the killings, testified Thursday he assaulted Santana with the butt of the pistol when the victim continued to move after being shot. Vergara, the defendant on trial this week, is accused of planning and directing the murders.

The original owner of the .45-caliber Colt handgun used in the killings took the witness stand Friday to say it had been stolen in a burglary of his Buford home some months before the murders.

Mike Hudson said he bought the gun in 1980 and had extensive gunsmith work done to it over the years for competition shooting.

"It's a very special gun," Hudson said.

A firearms examiner from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation confirmed Friday that the bullets found in the victims were fired from the gun stolen from Hudson's home.

The jury of 12 men and four women, including alternates, returns to court this morning for a rare Saturday court session.



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