Ruiz-Aviles v. State, 22A-CR-855

Citation22A-CR-855
Case DateSeptember 21, 2022
CourtCourt of Appeals of Indiana

Gerardo Ruiz-Aviles, Appellant-Defendant,
v.

State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff

No. 22A-CR-855

Court of Appeals of Indiana

September 21, 2022


Pursuant to Ind. Appellate Rule 65(D), this Memorandum Decision shall not be regarded as precedent or cited before any court except for the purpose of establishing the defense of res judicata, collateral estoppel, or the law of the case.

Appeal from the Wabash Circuit Court The Honorable Robert R. McCallen, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 85C01-1903-MR-333

Attorney for Appellant

Justin R. Wall

Wall Legal Services

Huntington, Indiana

Attorneys for Appellee

Theodore E. Rokita

Attorney General of Indiana

Nicole D. Wiggins

Deputy Attorney General

Indianapolis, Indiana

MEMORANDUM DECISION

Bradford, Chief Judge.

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Case Summary

[¶1] In March of 2019, after linking the shooting death of Alexis Serrano to Gerardo Ruiz-Aviles and Jose Guadalupe Maya-Sandoval, the State charged Ruiz-Aviles with murder. In February of 2021, a jury found Ruiz-Aviles guilty as charged. The trial court sentenced Ruiz-Aviles to sixty years of incarceration. Ruiz-Aviles appeals, raising two issues. First, Ruiz-Aviles contends that the State presented insufficient evidence to support his conviction. Second, he alleges that his sentence is inappropriate. We affirm.

Facts and Procedural History

[¶2] In June of 2018, Ruiz-Aviles and Serrano were friends and co-workers. Ruiz-Aviles was also friends with Maya-Sandoval, who was involved in the drug business. Maya-Sandoval, in turn, was friends with Alberto Ortega. Ortega owned a home with property in rural Wabash County near the Mississinewa Reservoir.

[¶3] On June 2, 2018, around noon, Maya-Sandoval visited Ortega's property with a friend. Maya-Sandoval explained that two friends from Indianapolis, one of whom owed him money, would be joining them that afternoon. Maya-Sandoval and his friend shot targets with firearms while they waited. A few hours later, Ruiz-Aviles picked up Serrano from Serrano's home to take him to Ortega's property. Sometime during that drive, Maya-Sandoval called Ruiz-

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Aviles to check his location and asked if he had a gun. One hour after that phone call, Ruiz-Aviles arrived at Ortega's property with Serrano.

[¶4] When Ruiz-Aviles and Serrano arrived at Ortega's property, Serrano gave Maya-Sandoval money. Then Maya-Sandoval, Ruiz-Aviles, and Serrano walked together towards the woods. Shortly thereafter, Ortega heard two gunshots. Twenty minutes later, Maya-Sandoval returned and told his friend it was time to leave. At that point, Ortega noticed that Ruiz-Aviles was already driving away from Ortega's property. Serrano did not return home.

[¶5] The following day, Maya-Sandoval called Ortega to ask if the police had been to his property. Maya-Sandoval told Ortega that "nothing happened. You don't know nothing, [and] don't say nothing." Tr. Vol. III p. 72. The next day, Maya-Sandoval returned to Ortega's property, walked in the same direction in which he and Ruiz-Aviles had taken Serrano, and returned carrying a bag with a pistol and two mobile telephones. In the meantime, Ruiz-Aviles told Serrano's family that he had left Serrano at the intersection of Post Road and Pendleton Pike in Indianapolis. Ruiz-Aviles told the authorities the same after Serrano's family filed a missing person's report. Nearly four weeks later, a group of fishermen were hiking a trail bordering Ortega's property when they discovered Serrano's body. Serrano had been shot twice in the head.

[¶6] Eventually, the Indiana State Police connected Serrano's death to Ruiz-Aviles and Maya-Sandoval. During their investigation, authorities discovered that the telephones Ruiz-Aviles and Maya-Sandoval had been using both stopped

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working on June 2, 2018-the day they took Serrano into the woods. Ruiz-Aviles informed the investigators that his telephone had stopped working that day. However, he consented to a search of his new telephone, which had retained some of his prior telephone's data, including location information, through his Google account. The location data revealed that Ruiz-Aviles had never dropped off Serrano as he claimed; instead, the data confirmed that he had taken Serrano to Ortega's property on June 2, 2018.

[¶7] Subsequently, the State charged Ruiz-Aviles with murder, a felony under Indiana Code section 35-42-1-1(1) and a firearm enhancement under Indiana Code section 35-50-2-11. A jury found Ruiz-Aviles guilty of murder, and the State dismissed the firearm enhancement. The trial court sentenced Ruiz-Aviles to term of sixty years of incarceration.

Discussion and Decision

I. Insufficient Evidence

[¶8] In challenging the sufficiency of the evidence, Ruiz-Aviles argues that the State failed to show that he knowingly and intentionally killed, or aided in killing, Serrano. Our standard of review for insufficient-evidence claims is well-established:

When reviewing a claim that the evidence introduced at trial was insufficient to support a conviction, we consider only the probative evidence and reasonable inferences that support the trial court's finding of guilt. Drane v State, 867 N.E.2d 144 (Ind. 2007).
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We likewise consider conflicting evidence in the light most favorable to the trial court's finding. Wright v. State, 828 N.E.2d 904 (Ind. 2005). It is therefore not necessary that the evidence overcome every reasonable hypothesis of innocence. Drane, 867 N.E.2d at 147. Instead, we will affirm the conviction unless no reasonable trier of fact could have found the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Jenkins v. State, 726 N.E.2d 268, 270 (Ind. 2000).

Gray v. State, 957 N.E.2d 171, 174 (Ind. 2011). Put simply, we will...

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