FLORENCE — Without the need for deliberation, Pinal County Superior Court Judge Patrick Gard decided Friday that Alec Perez could face the death penalty for the murder of four people in Casa Grande in 2017.

Friday, Gard listened to several hours of arguments in a probable cause hearing to determine if Perez would be eligible for the death penalty if he is convicted of first-degree murder.

Gard decided in minutes that the state does have the ability to pursue the death penalty.

Perez, 34, is accused of killing two men and two women on the morning of Oct. 5, 2017, at a housing complex on West 13th Street in Casa Grande.

Perez is charged along with Rodney Ortiz and will be tried separately.

One of the victims, 29-year-old Crysta Proctor, was married to Perez, and police reports show the couple had a history of domestic violence. During an altercation in September 2017, police reported Perez had threatened to kill his wife.

The other victims were identified as Connie Carrera, 31; Jose Martin Aguilera, 27; and Justin Allen Yates, 32.

On Friday prosecutor Patrick Johnson called two witnesses to the stand to determine Perez’s eligibility for the death penalty in the event he is convicted of the murders.

With nine members of the victim’s families sitting in the courtroom, Johnson called Dr. John Hu, chief medical examiner of Pinal County.

He discussed autopsy reports of the four victims Hu performed on the victims after their deaths. Hu said the cause of death for Justin Yates was a gunshot wound to the head. Yates did not die immediately from the gunshot wound.

“He could have lived five or ten minutes,” Hu said.

He added that the gun used to kill Yates was fired within a 2-foot range of the victim.

Hu said Jose Aguilera died from multiple gunshot wounds and sharp force injury. Hu said at least one of the bullets caused certain death rather quickly, but he would not say it caused immediate death.

He said shots fired into Aguilera were also at close range. One bullet went into his forehead and another into his ear. Hu said he had injuries in addition to those that caused death, which is a mitigating factor for the state in the pursuit of the death penalty.

Aguilera also suffered two stab wounds that could have caused very quick death as his cirrhotic artery was cut. He also suffered additional stab wounds, according to Hu.

Hu said Connie Carrera had two gunshot wounds to her head and her right hand. One head wound was into the top of her forehead and would have been fatal, but not instantaneous, he said.

Hu said the other gunshot wounds she suffered were not immediately fatal. Hu said she died from multiple gunshot and stab wounds.

Hu said Carrera was also shot in the chest with a fatal round and was stabbed twice in the neck. He said one of the stab wounds was considered fatal.

Crysta Proctor, the ex-wife of the defendant, died of multiple sharp and blunt force injuries, according to Hu. He said she was hit and received multiple blunt force injuries to her head. Hu said she was stabbed in the right shoulder and several times in the back, with one that penetrated her lung.

She also suffered several sharp force wounds to her hand. He said the wounds are considered defensive wounds.

“She was obviously conscience enough to defend herself, at least for a while,” Hu said. “The person here was fighting for her life.”

Hu said she received additional stab wounds in the chest, which he considered to be her most fatal injuries.

She suffered a single stab wound into her heart, liver and three into her lungs.

Hu said she suffered more than 20 stab wounds and experienced a painful death.

Casa Grande Police Detective Troy Schmitz was called next by prosecutors.

Schmitz described the murder scene and the investigation. He said two guns related to the investigation were found. Photographs of the victims after they were killed were shown in the courtroom.

One of the victim’s mother had to leave the room when the photographs were shown and she yelled, “I hope you rot in hell” toward Perez.

Judge Gard issued a warning to those attending the hearing not to have outbursts in the courtroom.

Schmitz said Perez admitted to kicking the door open and said a revolver was found near the area where Perez was arrested.

Schmitz said there was blood on Perez’s pants and shirt belonging to one of the victims when he was arrested. He said the victim’s blood was also found on the gun.

At the end of the hearing, Gard said that the state had proven a need of probable cause, and aggravating factors necessary to pursue the death penalty against Perez.

The next status review hearing in this case will be on Jan. 13 at 3:30 p.m., and trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 28, 2020.


Jim Headley is a reporter covering breaking news, crime and justice around Pinal County. He can be reached at jheadley@pinalcentral.com.