- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 6, 2017

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) - A former New Mexico car wash owner who said he shot and killed a customer in self-defense has been acquitted by a 12-person jury.

Leo Molina, 59, was found not guilty on Monday after a five-day trial, the Las Cruces Sun-News reported (http://bit.ly/2qYQfbJ ). He was charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of 39-year-old Gregory Fernandez.

Molina shot Fernandez three times in the chest with a .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun during a fight at the car wash, where Fernandez had rinsed away dog feces from the bed of his pickup. Molina had banned Fernandez from the car wash several days before the shooting.

Molina testified Friday and maintained that he shot Fernandez in self-defense as Fernandez attempted to gouge his eyes during their confrontation. Prosecutors argued Molina had deliberately killed Fernandez after becoming enraged about the feces.

After the verdict was delivered, District Attorney Mark D’Antonio described the outcome as “justice.”

“The state put on a very good case, defense put on their case and the jury acquitted the defendant - and that’s justice in this case,” he said.

D’Antonio later praised Fernandez’s family, in particular his sister Trine Lane, who sat through the entire trial.

“Twelve jurors going back there and finding him not guilty - that doesn’t mean anything to me because something that doesn’t change and something that Leo Molina can never take away from me is that he did shoot my brother,” Lane said. “That was never a dispute. He did kill my brother. So that’s something he’ll never ever take from me. I forgive him for it.”

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Information from: Las Cruces Sun-News, http://www.lcsun-news.com

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