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State v. Casares

Supreme Court of Nebraska

June 19, 2015


Page 668

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Appeal from the District Court for Lancaster County: PAUL D. MERRITT, JR., Judge.

Nancy K. Peterson for appellant.

Douglas J. Peterson, Attorney General, and Austin N. Relph for appellee.



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[291 Neb. 151] Stephan, J.

Adrian M. Casares pled no contest to an amended information charging one count of aiding and abetting second degree murder. He was subsequently sentenced to no less than life imprisonment or more than life imprisonment. In this direct appeal, he alleges that his trial counsel was ineffective in various respects and that his sentence was excessive. We affirm his conviction and sentence.

[291 Neb. 152] I. FACTS

On December 30, 2012, at approximately 4 a.m., a newspaper carrier found the body of Tyler Schoenrock on a gravel road in rural Lancaster County, Nebraska. Schoenrock had been shot twice in the back and once in the head. The resulting investigation identified Casares and Miguel Castillo as suspects.

Casares was originally charged with making terroristic threats, a Class IV felony, and use of a firearm to commit a felony, a Class IC felony.[1] The information was later amended to add charges of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, a Class ID felony, and accessory to a felony, a Class III felony.[2]

The State later moved to file a second amended information, in which it planned

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to charge a total of six crimes, including first degree murder, a Class IA felony.[3] But before that information was filed, the parties negotiated a plea agreement. Pursuant to the terms of that agreement, Casares entered a plea of no contest to a second amended information charging a single count of aiding and abetting second degree murder, a Class IB felony.[4]

At the plea hearing, the court had an extended colloquy with Casares discussing his rights, the nature of the charge, and the possible penalty. The factual basis for the plea was set forth in the written plea agreement, which characterized the stated facts as " true and undisputed." According to the factual statement in the plea agreement, Casares, Castillo, and Schoenrock were all involved with methamphetamine use and distribution. On December 29, 2012, Casares confronted Schoenrock at Schoenrock's residence with a handgun and [291 Neb. 153] accused Schoenrock of being a law enforcement " 'snitch.'" Casares later left the residence, but in the early morning hours of December 30, he and Castillo returned and picked Schoenrock up in a vehicle which Casares drove. Casares had the handgun with him, and a witness described the handgun and the ammunition it contained with specificity. The handgun and ammunition were eventually determined to have been used to kill Schoenrock. The handgun was stolen, and its owner informed police he noticed it was missing from his truck on December 25, shortly after a visit from Castillo and Casares.

Castillo was arrested soon after Schoenrock's body was discovered. He told police that after they picked Schoenrock up, Casares drove the vehicle out of the city into the country. Castillo stayed in the car while Casares and Schoenrock got out. Castillo told authorities that Casares was responsible for shooting Schoenrock at that location.

Casares was arrested on January 15, 2013, in Texas. At the time of the arrest, he was accompanied by a woman. He denied knowing Castillo well and denied being in Lincoln, Nebraska, when Schoenrock was killed. The woman later told police that she drove Castillo and Casares to her apartment after the shooting and that she went to Omaha, Nebraska, with them later in the day on December 30, 2012. On the way to Omaha, Castillo and Casares discussed disposing of the handgun, which was in a silver lockbox. The woman stated that she eventually buried the lockbox in the backyard of an Omaha residence, and eventually led police to it. Casares' cell phone records showed he was in and around Lincoln on December 29 and 30, and that the cell phone was frequently used for calls and messaging, except from 3:05 a.m. to 4:08 a.m. on December 30, when it was turned off. Casares informed the court at the time he entered his plea that he had no disagreement with the factual basis set forth in the plea agreement.

[291 Neb. 154] After accepting the plea, the court ordered a presentence investigation (PSI). After reviewing the results of this investigation and conducting a hearing, the district court sentenced Casares to a term of life-to-life ...

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