MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO 2016 MURDER

MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO 2016 MURDER
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EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) — After nearly eight years of waiting, the family of a man found dead in the desert of Northeast El Paso has some resolution.

Aaron Anthony Zelonis pleaded guilty to murder and tampering with evidence Tuesday in the 34th District Court.

Zelonis — wearing an orange-and-white jail jumpsuit — was sentenced to 27 years in prison in with the killing of Devon Leatherbury.

Leatherbury was shot in the head and his body was found in a desert area off Dyer Street in Northeast El Paso in August 2016.

Zelonis and his father, Richard Zelonis, were arrested in June 2018 and charged with murder and tampering with physical evidence.

Read how the case was solved, according to the El Paso Police arrest affidavits

After Aaron Zelonis was sentenced, Leatherbury’s mom delivered her victim impact statement from the witness stand.

Also on the stand, an urn containing her son’s ashes. She told the court, she wanted Zelonis to see what was left of her son.

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“I just, he murdered my son and put him in a plastic tote and threw him in the desert,” Genette Vargas told ABC-7 after court was admitted, choking up as she spoke. “I just, I want him to be reminded, and be reminded of what he did, and, over a gift card. So foolish to murder my son for a gift card.”

The arrest affidavit states that, after Leatherbury was killed, Richard Zelonis was seen on camera at a major chain retail store using a gift card that he admitted belonged to Leatherbury.

Richard Zelonis was convicted in 2020 of tampering with physical evidence. He remains in prison as he serves a 20-year sentence.

Vargas told ABC-7 that after enduring that trial, she felt the plea for Aaron Zelonis was “God’s decision.”

Richard’s girlfriend at the time, Tina McKenzie, was also arrested and charged with tampering with evidence.

The arrest affidavit states she helped clean up the crime scene, then drove the victim’s body to the desert.

Her trial is set for next year.

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