State rests case against Moreno; medical examiner testifies about autopsy

Published 12:52 pm Monday, March 11, 2024

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Prosecutors rested their case right before noon Monday against the Albert Lea man charged with murder in the death of Juan Vasquez Jr. in August 2022.

Witnesses on the stand Monday morning included Albert Lea resident Brian Fredrickson, who loaned the vehicle that Vasquez and Marco Posada rode in to the home of south of Albert Lea where Vasquez died, as well as Assistant Ramsey County Medical Examiner Victor Froloff, who performed the autopsy on Vasquez, and Craig Martin, who testified previously in his role as the member of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s crime scene team who took photos and videos the evening after the shooting on Aug. 9, 2022.

Ben Vidal Moreno faces five charges, including two counts of second-degree murder in the death of Vasquez, one count of attempted second-degree murder of Posada and two counts of ineligible possession of a firearm.

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Prosecutors had also attempted to call Raquel “Rachel” Vasquez to the stand, but Vasquez refused to testify. Vasquez, who was the daughter of Juan Vasquez, also had children with Moreno and was arrested on a warrant over the weekend for failure to appear in court to testify last week.

Raquel Vasquez could be heard in the jail holding room screaming and protesting about being called into the court before the jury was brought into the courtroom, and later could be heard screaming, saying she wanted to go back to her cell when asked to appear via Zoom to handle the warrant.

Freeborn County District Court Judge Christy Hormann ordered she be held in the jail until the end of the trial.

One of the jurors was also released Monday morning from his duties because of sickness.

Medical examiner testifies about findings during autopsy

Froloff, who conducts roughly 300 autopsies a year, said he determined Vasquez’s cause of death was exsanguination, or death caused by loss of blood, from a distant gunshot wound to the chest.

The manner of death was homicide, or that his life was taken by another person.

Froloff testified if it had been a close gunshot wound, there would have been gunpowder and soot on Vasquez. If it had been an intermediate, there would have been stippling.

Froloff said when Vasquez’s body came to him, he still had all of the lifesaving medical equipment on him from when first responders tried to save his life before he died. His hands had been put in paper bags to preserve evidence on his hands.

He said he did not observe any gun powder on his hands, just a grassy material and dried blood. In addition to visually looking at Vasquez’s hands, he conducted gun powder residual swabs on the front and back of his hands.

The doctor said when the fatal gunshot entered Vasquez’s body, it went through both chest cavities and went through both the heart and a lung before exiting through a back rib. There was blood in both the right and left chest cavities. Vasquez lost a lot of blood both internally and externally.

Through X-rays, Froloff was able to find fragments of the bullet in the chest area, what he described as the “snowstorm effect,” which usually happens with high velocity gunshot wounds, like rifles.

Vasquez also tested positive for methamphetamine and amphetamines.

The medical examiner said he obtained a wallet and cigarettes from Vasquez’s front pocket. He did not find any bullets.

Photographer testifies about locations of where spent ammunition were found

Martin, who worked in the role of photographer and videographer of the scene of the shooting, at 75463 160th St., after authorities arrived, was asked questions about the various spent ammunition that he photographed at the scene and where each was placed. He previously testified last week.

He said he found three shotgun shell wads near the bottom of the driveway near where it intersects with the gravel 160th Street.

Two spent .380 caliber cartridge cases were found — one in the upper turnaround area of the driveway closer to the home and the second near the sidewalk near the south side of the house.

Martin said no spent .380 shell casings were found in the middle of the driveway.