Testimony continues in murder trial

An acquaintance of Billy Joe Aguero and Joseph Moncada told jurors Monday of how the two men lured a Grand Forks father and son to a remote spot and shot them over a debt in 2001.

Moncada and Aguero
Joseph Moncada (left) and Billy Joe Aguero take in trial proceedings in Grand Forks County Courthouse. Herald file photos.

An acquaintance of Billy Joe Aguero and Joseph Moncada told jurors Monday of how the two men lured a Grand Forks father and son to a remote spot and shot them over a debt in 2001.

"They befriended them and told them that they were going to go cruising," Manuel Delgado said. "They smoked meth with them and took them wherever it was they took them to."

The bodies of Robert Belgarde and his teenage son, Damien, were found southwest of Grand Forks, near the end of the gravel extension of 32nd Avenue South the night of Sept. 7, 2001.

Three days later, Delgado said, Aguero and Moncada described the killings to him. Delgado, who said he "used to party with" the defendants, said they told him Moncada shot one man and gave the gun to Aguero, who shot the other man.

Delgado, 33, testified that Aguero said he used a beer bottle to strike one of the Belgardes and that, as Aguero told that part of the story, "he started laughing about it." Robert Belgarde's autopsy showed that he suffered blunt-force trauma to his forehead and lacerations to his face.


Delgado's testimony kicked off the second week of the trial. He's one of several witnesses who have testified that Aguero and Moncada told them they were involved in the shootings.

Aguero, 31, and Moncada, 26, are each charged in state District Court with two counts of murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

Delgado, who is doing time in Willow River, Minn., for drug convictions, said he was interviewed by investigators in 2001 and 2004. He said the first statement he gave them was "vague," but that his second statement was more detailed.

"I was using it as a bargaining tool," Delgado said, referring to his second statement. "I was trying to get less time, but I didn't."

Others have testified that the Belgardes knew they were marked men for stealing about 3 pounds of methamphetamine from a group of Mexicans.


Jesse Kalinoski, who knew the defendants and the victims, testified that the Belgardes at one point were interested in buying two

9 mm pistols -- a Glock and a Firestar -- from him, but that they didn't have enough money to do so.


Kalinoski said that after he went target shooting with Moncada at a vacant Polk County farmstead, Moncada bought the same two pistols. Kalinoski said Moncada paid cash -- $800 for the Glock and $200 for the Firestar.

Kalinoski, 31, said he also sold Moncada three types of ammunition: Federal Hydra-Shok, Winchester MagSafe and Remington Glaser rounds.

LaMonte Jacobson, a forensic scientist at the state Crime Laboratory, testified that evidence of all three types of ammo was discovered at the crime scene.

Jacobson said eight empty casings found at the scene and nine found at the vacant farmstead were fired from the same gun.

Damien Belgarde, 19, was shot seven times, and Robert Belgarde, 40, was shot four times, according to an autopsy report. Jacobson said the Belgardes were shot with the same gun.


Crime Lab director Hope Olson testified that Aguero's DNA is consistent with DNA from the neck of a broken beer bottle found near Robert Belgarde's body. Moncada's DNA is consistent with DNA from a partially smoked cigarette found at the scene, Olson said.

Contrary to an earlier Herald report that authorities had not tested Shannon Clauthier's DNA, Olson told jurors Clauthier's DNA was tested but that it wasn't consistent with any DNA found at the crime scene.


Defense attorneys have suggested Clauthier, the boyfriend of Moncada's sister, is responsible for the murders. Clauthier has denied involvement, aside from following Moncada's instructions that night to get rid of a bag containing clothes and shoes.

Under questioning from the defense, Olson recognized that DNA evidence cannot tell how, when or where DNA was transferred. She acknowledged that DNA on an object can be moved from one location to another.

Prosecutors have said they may finish calling witnesses as early as today. The defense is not expected to call any witnesses, which means the case could go to the jury today.

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