ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The three teenagers had returned from a night of drinking at a house party when the youngest of them said they decided to attack homeless men sleeping in a vacant lot — first with a wooden table leg, then with cinder blocks, a metal pole, branch and stones.
The July 2014 attack that killed Allison Gorman, 44, and Kee Thompson, 46, has been described by authorities this past week in court as vicious, grisly and among the most violent they have ever seen.
Sparked in the middle of the night as the victims slept, the assault lasted roughly an hour, with the three assailants leaving the scene after the first 30 minutes to get knives, according to testimony from the youngest, now 16.
He said they returned at the urging of one of the teens.
"(He) said let's stab these guys. We agreed," the youngest said. "He said we got to make sure they're dead."
The boy's chilling testimony, which came during the jury trial for suspect Alex Rios, began late Friday and is expected to resume Monday. He told the prosecutor that he, Rios and another teen initially attacked three men, but one was able to run away.
Rios, now 20, was 18 at the time of the attack, which his attorney says he witnessed but did not carry out. He faces 27 charges, including two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Thompson and Gorman.
"I stabbed the guy on the mattress seven times," the 16-year-old said Friday. "Alex stabbed the guy on the ground about the same amount of time as me."
Daniel Salazar, Rios' attorney, has told jurors that the state has no physical evidence that his client ever struck the men, though he has acknowledged that his client's DNA was found on a piece of clothing linked to the crime and collected during the investigation. That, however, is not enough to prove he attacked the men, Salazar argued.
During cross-examination, Salazar questioned the 16-year-old repeatedly about lying to officers early in the investigation and his interactions with homeless men at the vacant lot near his home. Once a transient had tried to enter his home, and there had been friction between the 16-year-old and the homeless man who survived the attack.
The 16-year-old, who The Associated Press hasn't named because of his age, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and other charges in an agreement that offers him the possibility of release when he turns 21.
His testimony in Rios' trial is a condition of the plea agreement, which Rios' attorney brought up more than once while questioning the boy in court Friday.
"You want to get out of jail when you are 21, right?" Salazar asked.
The 16-year-old said yes.
About a half-dozen of the victims' family members listened to the testimony, and several wiped away tears as the boy answered the prosecutor's questions.
A trial for the third suspect — who the youngest said poured a pile of dirt on the face of one of the victims and also urinated on one of the men as they lay unconscious — is scheduled for next year.
"It was a horrible scene," said Detective Geoff Stone, while interviewing Rios soon after the crime. "Those two guys were completely mangled."
A recording of the interview was shown to jurors earlier Friday.