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Ponce preliminary hearing

Luis Ponce walks into the courtroom before the start of his preliminary trial for the first-degree murder of Christopher Fassett on Jan. 19 at the Cassia County Judicial Center in Burley. Fassett's body was discovered at his automotive shop on Dec. 13, 2017. 

BURLEY — A 22-year-old Burley man has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the shooting death of a man who was working at his West Main Street transmission shop last December.

Police said Luis Gabriel Ponce shot 58-year-old Christopher Fassett in the stomach and then in the head during an attempted robbery while Fassett was working underneath a car.

In exchange for the plea, prosecutors will dismiss charges of robbery and burglary. Both the prosecutor’s office and the defense will recommend a sentence of 28 years to life in prison to the judge. Ponce will pay all court costs, fines, civil penalty and restitution, which will be determined at a future hearing.

In the plea advisory form, Ponce wrote that he was pleading guilty because “I know what I did and am going to do the time.”

A sentencing hearing is set for Dec. 11 in Cassia County District Court.

During a magistrate court preliminary hearing in January, a detective said Ponce thought Fassett had $6,000 to $7,000 at the shop. When Ponce asked Fassett for some money, Fassett told him no and offered to let him work for him instead of handing over cash.

Instead, Ponce told him “I can’t wait,” and shot him, the detective said.

The coroner said either wound would have killed Fassett. The first bullet clipped his aorta, the major blood vessel that transports blood from the heart, and it hit several organs. The second wound to his head caused immediate death, he said.

Detectives said Ponce came to the sheriff’s office after the shooting and admitted to killing Fassett. He then took officers to his home, where they found the gun that was used and to a garbage can in the city, where they found the gloves he was wearing during the shooting.

Ponce told officers that after the shooting he searched the shop for money but did not find any.

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