Man’s conviction upheld in shooting death during NLV drug deal

Thu, Aug 15, 2019 (10:05 p.m.)

Not a month had passed since Louis Matthews walked out of prison in 2013. He’d served a lengthy sentence for dealing cocaine, and now there he was, a free man, plotting his next crime.

It wouldn’t be long before he was behind bars again, this time for killing a man in a “drug rip gone bad.” His life sentence was confirmed Thursday — following a 2016 trial and an appeal.

Shortly after Matthews left prison, he recruited his cousin for the Nov. 30, 2013, robbery, according to federal court documents. The cousins would buy 20 pounds of pot from a trio in a North Las Vegas apartment.

So the sellers thought. The cousins had other plans.

Now there they were, five men in the second-floor apartment — described as a drug house — the marijuana in trash bags ready to be exchanged for $40,000.

The buyers had no cash, instead employing firepower — or the threat of it — as currency. So they pulled out their guns and demanded the three men raise their hands.  

Two men complied, but Luciano Madrigal-Herrera would not. Instead, he muttered something in Spanish, according to the court documents, and apparently reached for his waist. Then he was pumped with seven rounds that exploded from “point-blank range” from a .45-caliber gun and a 9mm pistol, which knocked him to the floor — dead.

Towing a bag of pot, Matthews and his cousin, John Thomas, took off running, likely anticipating the surviving dealers would react. One did, grabbing his shotgun and blasting rounds from a catwalk as they raced toward their getaway car.

Thomas was hit in the shoulder, prompting Matthews to drop the marijuana and help him, documents said.

The two surviving dealers also fled. But in the rush, one of them left his cellphone behind, facilitating cops’ efforts to reach Matthews and solve the case.

Thomas, the cousin, would later say he acted in self-defense after someone shot at him — authorities didn’t buy it.

Previously convicted in the slaying, Thomas and the two surviving dealers — Angel Juarez, also known as “Silent,” and Julio Nunez, who uses the alias “Pugsley” — were slated to testify against Matthews, according to a trial brief document.

Prosecutors were harsh in a sentencing memorandum in Matthews’ docket.

They said that evidence would show the “depraved and premeditated nature” of the crime. “The death of Luciano Madrigal-Herrera was, by no means, the mere product of an unfortunate sequence of events flowing from a drug rip gone bad.”

According to the memorandum, investigators had learned that before the holdup, Nunez, who’d brought the shotgun, had struggled with Matthews over the weapon before it was placed in a back room, according to a sentencing memorandum. “He knew the shotgun was only a few feet away and he reasonably assumed that the others, including Madrigal-Herrera, were armed — why would Nunez be the only one with a gun?”

If Matthews had regard for life, he could have aborted the plan but didn’t, prosecutors wrote.

In the second trial, a one-week affair in May, Matthews, 37, was found guilty of conspiracy to possess marijuana with intent to distribute and using a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime resulting in death, according to the office of the U.S. attorney for the district of Nevada.

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