Bell County Courts

BELTON — Three San Angelo men charged with murder or capital murder in a Temple case got a trial break because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Justin Lane Slatton Jr., Lupe Martinez Chappa and Rodrigo Lara Gutierra were all charged with first-degree murder, while Slatton is also charged with capital murder of multiple persons.

Their jury trials were scheduled for 8:45 a.m. April 13.

“As the current status of all trials are delayed till May 8, 2020, by order of the Presiding Judge, these cases have been rescheduled,” Bell County District Attorney Henry Garza said Monday.

The murders of which the men are charged occurred April 23, 2016, in Temple. Shot and killed were Johnathan Hess, 26, of Temple and Vicente Hernandez, 36, of Killeen.

Chappa was 16 years old when the homicides occurred. He can’t be sentenced to the death penalty if he’s found guilty.

Prosecuting the three men will be Assistant District Attorney Stephanie Newell.

Slatton’s attorney is James Kreimeyer, and representing Chappa is John Galligan. Gutierez’s attorney is Charles King.

Chappa’s bonds total $2 million, and the bonds for Gutierrez total $2,007,500. Slatton’s bonds total $3 million.

Each man’s trial will be in the Bell County 426th District courtroom.

The death penalty for Slatton was waived by Garza, and Chappa and Gutierrez could be sentenced to life in prison or not less than 5 years in prison if they’re convicted. Slatton could be sentenced to life in prison without the opportunity for parole if he’s found guilty.