Kevin Josue Soto-Banilla trial 01

Kevin Josue Soto-Bonilla during opening statements of his trial at the Bedford County Courthouse in Bedford County on Dec. 4.

BEDFORD — Evidence and testimony in a trial for an alleged gang member charged with capital murder of a Lynchburg teen finished Tuesday.

A jury sitting in Bedford Circuit Court has now heard four days’ worth of evidence in the case of Kevin Josue Soto Bonilla.

He’s one of four men charged with capital murder in the March 2017 death of 17-year-old Raymond Wood. A fifth, Victor Arnoldo Rodas, was found guilty of first-degree murder in a jury trial last year and sentenced to 55 years in prison.

Soto Bonilla is also charged with robbery, abduction for pecuniary benefit and gang participation from the incident.

After calling two of Soto Bonilla’s co-defendants to the stand, Bedford County Commonwealth’s Attorney Wes Nance wrapped up his list of witnesses with Amy Tharp, an assistant chief medical examiner who analyzed Wood’s body after it was discovered on Roaring Run Road the night of March 27, 2017.

She catalogued Wood’s numerous injuries: multiple stab wounds to the torso, some of them piercing through, deep cuts to his throat and chin, his severed right hand and numerous bruises and abrasions.

Based on the appearance of the wounds and the blood they produce, she said the injury to his hand must’ve happened first, followed by the lethal cut to his neck and stab wounds to his torso.

Soto Bonilla’s co- defendant, Cristian Josue Sanchez-Gomez, said earlier in the trial he was part of a group that traveled down to Lynchburg from Maryland at the behest of leading members of the Sailor’s Clique within the violent street gang MS-13.

While in Lynchburg, they met up with two other gang members who were planning to “make a soup,” or kill Wood. They passed around a large knife, which Soto Bonilla said he’d use to cut off the teen’s hand, Sanchez-Gomez said.

After kidnapping Wood from his house and driving to a remote part of Roaring Run Road in Bedford County, Sanchez-Gomez said he witnessed Soto Bonilla stabbing at Wood’s body with the knife, though he said he couldn’t recall seeing where he was stabbing.

Once the two escaped from the Lynchburg area with the help of other gang members, Soto Bonilla talked about participating in Wood’s death, according to testimony.

Soto Bonilla’s lawyers moved Tuesday to strike all of his charges except for gang participation.

One of his lawyers, Aaron Houchens, said there was no evidence produced showing their client had abducted Wood with intent to rob or extort him. Rather, testimony revealed the group was simply told they were traveling to Lynchburg simply to kill someone, he said.

Likewise, Houchens said there was no evidence Soto Bonilla robbed Wood himself. Cash and baggies of marijuana from Wood were scattered in the car the group used to take him to Bedford.

For the capital murder charge, Houchens said Soto Bonilla’s personal motive for the killing was never brought up.

Bedford Circuit Court Judge James Updike pondered on the precise motives for killing Wood. Testimony in trials so far have suggested gang members wanted to “set up shop” selling drugs in Lynchburg and wanted to steal that business from Wood; that they wanted to establish Lynchburg as their turf by killing a rival; or that Wood threatened to shoot Rodas and shorted him in a weed deal, so Rodas was going to take revenge.

Ultimately, Judge Updike denied the motion to strike and let the case continue. Soto Bonilla’s attorneys briefly presented evidence that included police recordings of Rodas’ arrest before they concluded their evidence as well.

The jury will return Wednesday morning to receive instructions and listen to closing arguments before deliberating on a verdict.

Rachel Mahoney covers courts for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5554.

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