OGDEN — Mandy Lopez said she watched her best friend die and then ran for her own life, bleeding from a .45-caliber bullet wound.
The Ogden woman testified Friday she is haunted by the violent death of Stephanie Louise Chavez, who was shot four times July 1 at her estranged husband’s bedroom door.
Sergio Arturo Chavez, 41, is charged with first-degree felony murder, as well as attempted murder for allegedly shooting Lopez, who testified during Chavez’s four-hour preliminary hearing in 2nd District Court.
“It’s in my head every day — I close my eyes and I see her being shot in the head,” Lopez said.
Lopez and her friend had been driving around Ogden after Stephanie had a physical confrontation with her estranged husband, Lopez said.
She was crying and her face was swollen, Lopez said.
Then they drove to the house where Sergio Chavez was staying, a home owned by a relative of his, Lopez said.
Lopez waited outside but rushed into the house after she head banging — “boom, boom, boom” — like pounding, not gunshots, she said during attorneys’ questioning.
As she was entering a 5-foot hallway from the kitchen, she said she saw Stephanie with her left arm raised and the bedroom door tipping off its upper hinge, and her husband beyond.
“I saw him standing, holding a gun with two hands,” Lopez said during questioning by deputy Weber County attorney Teral Tree. “He pointed it at her head. I see him shoot Stephanie in the left side of her head and her head snaps back.”
A second shot hit Stephanie Chavez in the left breast area and she fell backward, Lopez said.
“That’s when I felt the pain,” Lopez said. “I was leaning in from the kitchen and I felt burning in my upper left chest.”
She turned and ran out of the house, through a gate and a carport area to the street.
“I heard more gunshots,” she said, but did not see who was shooting at her. “At that point, I don’t care. I just kept running.”
Tree outlined evidence he said showed that Sergio Chavez was ready to kill his wife, having sent numerous text and Facebook messages threatening her life.
But defense attorney Emily Swenson argued the shooting was in self-defense because Stephanie Chavez, unannounced, kicked down the locked bedroom door.
Judge Joseph Bean ultimately ruled prosecutors had presented evidence sufficient to establish probable cause to send the case on toward trial.
Travis Kearl, an Ogden police detective, testified that Sergio Chavez told officers he did not know who was breaking down his door and fired through the door without identifying the intruder.
Sergio Chavez was in the room with a new girlfriend, police said.
“He said it was dark and when the door came down he saw the other person,” Kearl said. The detective said Chavez admitted running out of the house onto the porch and shot at another person he had seen at the end of the hallway.
“He said he did not recognize the individual and whether it was a man or a woman,” Kearl said.
Police examined the door and found no bullet holes in it, Kearl said, and they confronted Sergio Chavez about it.
“He doubled down and stuck with that, that he shot through the door,” Kearl said.
The detective gave examples of death threats the man allegedly made to his wife as long ago as the previous March: “I’m going to blow your head off with a .45”; “I’ll kill you and your familia”; and, two days before the shootings, “I’m going to kill you tomorrow.”
Kearl said an autopsy showed the mother of two children was shot in the head, torso, arm and hand.
Under cross-examination by Swenson, Kearl said Sergio Chavez told police he was fearful after his wife once said “she was going to send some cousins over.”
Kearl said police determined that story was “not credible.”
Chavez also told officers that once he found out who he had shot, he did not shoot any more, administered CPR and told his wife he was sorry, Kearl said.
In her closing argument, Swenson said Chavez did not invite his wife to the house that night, there was no evidence of an “ambush attack” and he did not know she was coming over.
“It was his home,” Swenson said. “Why on earth would this woman go to his home, go past someone through the front door, barge in, kick in a locked door?” she said. “You should expect to be met with gunfire anywhere in the United States.”
Swenson added, “I think Stephanie was completely out of line. He did not know who was coming through the door. He doesn’t know if they have a gun.”
Tree responded that the evidence against Sergio Chavez “couldn’t be any more clear. His intent here was to kill her.”
For months, the prosecutor said, the defendant “had made continual reference to using a .45 to blow her head off.”
Tree also noted that Lopez testified there was a delay of about two seconds between the time the bedroom door tipped down and when the laser-sighted handgun was fired.
“He had time to see it was Stephanie coming through the door,” Tree said.
Sergio Chavez also is charged with four second-degree felony counts of use or possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person. Police said they found a 9 mm Glock handgun and two AR-15 rifles in his bedroom.
Police never found the .45, leading to a charge of second-degree felony obstruction of justice.
Prosecutors also charged him with third-degree felony possession of forged documents — he has several aliases and is living in the United States illegally — as well as class A misdemeanor use of a controlled substance after a blood test picked up methamphetamine in his system.