On September 25, 2005 Aniceto Armendariz, 43, was murdered as he and his wife were driving home from church when an illegal alien fired at their truck with a shotgun. One of two shotgun blasts hit Armendariz in the head and the truck he was driving rolled into a median on U.S. 40 near the Mayflower exit in Heber in rural Summit County, CO. Armendariz died instantly. Alma Armendariz was taken to a hospital, treated and released.
Police arrested Antonio Palaez-Vasquez and his son Cunny A. Pelaez and charged them with aggravated homicide. Both are illegal immigrants from Mexico Police reported that Palaez-Vasquez was intoxicated, although it is unclear with what substance.
Investigators and Armendariz family members do not know what sparked the shooting but police believe there is a chance this shooting may have been road rage although there was speculation that the shooting may have been sparked by Armendariz’ success and standing within the Hispanic community..
Aniceto Armendariz was a leader in both the Hispanic Community and his Catholic Church in Park City. He was a Deacon at St. Mary's Parish.
Cunny Antonio Pelaez pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and was sentenced to six years to life in prison. Pelaez-Vasquez, 56, pleaded guilty to first-degree felony murder.
Wasatch County attorney Thomas Low said that Armendariz was a Mexican immigrant who had permanent-resident status in the U.S.
Joby Sweat, Friend: "Their family is such an upstanding family and asset to our community and Park City's community."
To Josue Armendariz, 18, it was inconceivable that anyone would harm his father, who was an example to his family and friends. "I've always thought my dad was ahead of us because he was just such a great man, setting every pathway for us," Armendariz said. "He's in a good place because he was such a good man — too good to be in this corrupt world."
Aniceto Armendariz moved to Heber nearly 11 years ago with Alma and their four children. In the last decade, the Armendariz family has become a guide of sort for new immigrants, helping them traverse unfamiliar bureaucracy to receive medial treatment, driver's licenses and school registrations.
"This is a man who was a giant here in many, many ways," said the Rev. Bob Bussen, who was Armendariz's priest at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Park City. "He and his family were probably the lead Hispanic leaders for the Wasatch back."
Alma Armendariz gave her children the choice to bury their father close to home, or to send his body back to Mexico, which is a tradition in Hispanic communities. It was not a difficult decision for them, she said. "He chose Heber to (raise) his children because it's a nice place. It has nice people. It's a nice community," she said. Their children decided to bury him in Heber because, "if they wanted to talk to him, they wanted him close to home."
26SEP05, KSL TV5
Man Killed in Shooting Near Jordanelle Reservoir, by Amanda Butterfield
28SEP05, Deseret Morning News
Gunshot victim a 'leader' - by Kersten Swinyard
31Mar07, Deseret News
Illegal takes plea deal in 2005 slaying, by Linda Thomson
31MAR07, Daily Herald, Utah
Second man pleads guilty to 2005 slaying of Catholic deacon, AP story