OGDEN — An Ogden man accused of murder attempted to fire his lawyer before pleading not guilty to multiple felony charges.
Keshaun Mykel Puente, 21, pleaded not guilty to one count of first-degree murder and three counts of first-degree felony discharge of a firearm. Puente was charged in connection with the death of 23-year-old Denero Lamar Snider, who was shot and killed on June 13, 2018.
Court was in session just before 9:30 a.m. Monday morning. Shortly after Judge Jennifer Valencia called the court to order, Puente spoke up and made a request to the judge.
“Your Honor, I’d like to fire my attorney,” he said.
Puente said he wanted to obtain his own counsel and wanted to postpone the Monday hearing until a new attorney could be brought up to speed. Valencia denied his request, saying there were two prior hearings where Puente should have declared his intent to acquire his own attorney.
Valencia added that whoever Puente retains as counsel should be brought to court during his next court hearing, but until then Michael Bouwhuis, a public defender assigned to Puente, will remain as the attorney of record.
Deputy Weber County Attorney Thomas Pedersen gave the opening statements for the prosecution, and gave the overview of the case and Puente’s alleged actions that June day.
Pedersen alleged that Puente and Snider were arguing behind an apartment building near the 600 block of 23rd Street when Puente pulled out a handgun and shot Snider several times. Just yards away, workers were removing a tree and other debris when they noticed the two arguing and later heard the shots.
Puente and a woman at the scene allegedly got into a gray Hyundai Veloster and drove away. Several workers who heard the shot saw the car flee the scene and tried to stop the bleeding from Snider’s wounds.
He was later pronounced dead at a local hospital. Pedersen said Snider was shot four times in his torso, and an autopsy report ruled the manner of death was homicide.
The Hyundai allegedly used to flee the scene of the shooting was later found abandoned in North Las Vegas, Nevada, days after the shooting. In late December, Puente was arrested after a traffic stop in North Las Vegas and was brought back to Utah to face charges, Pedersen said.
The first witness Monday was Paul Pontius, a worker at the tree service who was yards away from the shooting. He said that he and several other workers noticed two people arguing, but couldn’t hear what either was saying.
“I had my head down when I heard gunshots,” Pontius said.
He said the man shot, Snider, fell backwards and tried to crawl away from the shooter. Pontius said the shooter, whom police say is Puente, got into a car and stopped a few times to look in his mirrors before driving away.
As workers ran up to Snider, they asked if he was OK. Snider responded by saying “I’ve been shot” several times, according to Pontius. He also told the court that he asked Snider who had shot him, but by that time Snider was unconscious and did not respond.
Another worker, Colbie Bedford, testified that he saw the argument and witnessed the shooter pull out the handgun and shoot Snider. Bedford, who himself is an EMT, was part of the group that ran over to help Snider. Several used their own shirts in the effort to stop his wounds from bleeding.
Bedford said he noticed that blood was collecting underneath the 23-year-old, and put a shirt under Snider to try and stop the bleeding. He began doing chest compressions until paramedics arrived at the scene.
Bedford and the other tree workers were roughly 150-200 feet from the shooting, according to their testimony.
He was later interviewed at the Ogden Police Department where police gave him a photo lineup, but Bedford could not positively identify the man who shot Snider, despite having viewed each photo for roughly 10 minutes. Another worker who testified Monday, Shane Studer, was also unable to identify a shooter through a police photo lineup.
However, during his testimony Monday, Bedford identified Puente as the shooter.
Nearing the end of the hearing, Bouwhuis expressed his concerns with witnesses identifying Puente as the shooter in court despite not being able to identify him hours after the shooting.
Puente took Bouwhuis’ advice and declined to testify during the preliminary hearing.
In his closing statements Bouwhuis acknowledged the low burden of proof needed for the case to move forward, but nonetheless argued there was not enough evidence to have Puente bound over for trial. Branden Miles, chief criminal deputy for the Weber County Attorney’s Office, argued the opposite, and asked to move the case forward.
Valencia sided with prosecutors, prompting Puente to enter not guilty pleas to all four charges in the case. His next court appearance on the matter is scheduled for a pretrial conference on May 13 at Ogden’s 2nd District Court.
Puente is also facing another first-degree felony charge of object rape in a separate Ogden district court case. Puente allegedly sexually assaulted a 17-year-old in October 2017 during a Halloween party, according to charging documents.
Puente had his preliminary hearing for the sexual assault case Monday afternoon. Online court records show at the conclusion of the hearing Puente again requested to drop Bouwhuis as his attorney and represent himself. Valencia denied the request, and she ordered the case bound over for trial.
Puente is being held without bail at the Weber County Jail.