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Bombing retrial postponed after juror tests positive for COVID-19

Updated August 20, 2021 - 4:56 pm

The retrial in the fatal 2007 bombing at a Las Vegas Strip hotel has been postponed after a juror tested positive for COVID-19.

Jurors, who are required to wear masks and be socially distanced, heard opening statements and testimony Wednesday in the retrial of Omar Rueda-Denvers.

The proceedings were first put on hold Thursday after one juror reported feeling sick and another had been exposed to the virus, defense attorney Christopher Oram said.

Rueda-Denvers, 45, is being retried for his role in the explosion of a metal pipe bomb that left one man dead in the Luxor parking garage on May 7, 2007. The bomb initially stoked fears of a possible terrorist attack on the Strip.

But prosecutors have said it was planted by a jealous Rueda-Denvers.

The victim, 24-year-old Willebaldo Dorantes Antonio, was the new boyfriend of Rueda-Denvers’ ex-girlfriend.

Rueda-Denvers and his friend Porfirio Duarte-Herrera were found guilty and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Prosecutors initially sought the death penalty.

A federal judge in 2019 granted Rueda-Denvers a new trial, ruling that he was unable to cross-examine his co-defendant, whose incriminating statements to police were presented to the jury.

On Wednesday, Oram said Rueda-Denvers had followed his ex-girlfriend the night of the bombing because he was looking for the daughter they share. Duarte-Herrera had a history of bomb making and had created the weapon months before the crime, Oram said.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Christopher Hamner displayed security footage of a car pulling up to Antonio’s vehicle 90 minutes before the bombing.

He told jurors he would prove that the driver was Rueda-Denvers and that the passenger, Duarte-Herrera, planted the bomb on top of Antonio’s car.

“There is one common thread that links all of this together,” he said. “And it’s this man: Omar Rueda-Denvers.”

The trial, before District Judge Michael Villani, is expected to resume Sept. 13.

Contact Briana Erickson at berickson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5244. Follow @ByBrianaE on Twitter.