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Jury convicts 2 men of murder in 2016 shooting death

Updated October 14, 2021 - 12:33 pm

Two men were found guilty Thursday of first-degree murder and other charges for their roles in a 2016 shooting death.

Cortrayer Zone, 43, who is facing the death penalty for the killing of 34-year-old Clarence McQuarters, was found guilty of first-degree murder with a deadly weapon and conspiracy to commit murder.

His co-defendant, 33-year-old Michael Rusk, who faced additional charges stemming from acts after the shooting, was found guilty of first-degree murder with a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit murder, home invasion and robbery.

Once the jury walked out of the courtroom, 40-year-old Robert Wells hugged one of McQuarters’ relatives. Wells, who grew up with McQuarters in Mississippi, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he still feels “empty” after his friend’s death, but he was happy with the verdict.

“He didn’t deserve that. He didn’t deserve that at all,” Wells said. “This man wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

Neither defendant, who stood with their defense attorneys, reacted when the jury’s verdict was read.

On June 10, 2016, Rusk drove Zone to confront McQuarters, prosecutors said, because Zone thought his girlfriend was cheating on him with the man.

Prosecutors said the friends waited for McQuarters at an apartment complex at 451 N. Nellis Blvd. for more than an hour.

Once McQuarters arrived home, witnesses testified, two masked men shot the victim before driving away.

“Make no mistake, you are sitting in this room right now with two cold-blooded killers,” Chief Deputy District Attorney John Giordani said Wednesday during closing arguments.

Giordani told the jury that Zone was angry because his girlfriend, Maria Pacheco-Gomez, had been in a relationship with McQuarters, so Zone and Rusk planned the killing.

Pacheco-Gomez had been in a relationship with McQuarters while Zone was in prison from 2013 to 2016, but the jury was not told about Zone’s conviction and sentence for battery charges.

Defense attorneys argued during the trial that Zone went to the apartment complex to speak to McQuarters, with whom he was angry for giving his girlfriend the Xanax pills to which she was addicted.

Following the shooting, prosecutors said, Rusk drove out of the complex with Zone in his car and then crashed nearby.

Zone ran in one direction, while Rusk ran toward a woman, took her cellphone, then ran to the Cedar Village Apartments at 2850 E. Cedar Ave., where he broke into a residence. Officers who surrounded the apartment arrested Rusk after he jumped from a balcony.

On Tuesday, Rusk took the witness stand and denied shooting McQuarters.

McQuarters was working as a bus driver for the Regional Transportation Commission at the time of his death. Wells described McQuarters as a kind man with a reputation for helping his friends find jobs or giving people free rides if they didn’t have money.

Wells said he plans to be in court when Zone and Rusk are sentenced, and he hopes the jury will give Zone the death penalty.

“I want whatever is the worst (sentence) you can get,” he said.

The sentencing phase of the trial is set to begin Monday morning.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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