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Closing arguments highlight love triangle in 2016 Las Vegas shooting

A love triangle is at the center of the 2016 fatal shooting of 34-year-old Clarence McQuarters, attorneys said during closing arguments Wednesday in the murder trial.

On June 10, 2016, Cortrayer Zone took his friend Michael Rusk to confront the 34-year-old, prosecutors said, because Zone thought his girlfriend was cheating on him with McQuarters. Prosecutors said the men waited for McQuarters at an apartment complex, 451 N. Nellis Blvd., for more than an hour.

Once McQuarters arrived home, witnesses testified, two masked men shot the 34-year-old 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.

While both men are charged with murder, prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Zone.

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 attorney Betsy Allen argued in closing statements that Zone went to the apartment complex to speak to McQuarters, with whom he was angry for providing his girlfriend with the Xanax pills she was addicted to.

Allen told the jury that the case is “messy” and should amount to manslaughter.

“It involves addiction, it involves deceit, it involves affairs of the heart,” she said. “Things that you can’t quantify in a PowerPoint or a picture, things that involved human emotion, that involve passion.”

Pacheco-Gomez testified on Tuesday that she had tried to warn McQuarters about Zone. Prosecutors played voicemails she left for McQuarters, and in some of them she could be heard arguing with Zone in the background.

Just before the shooting, Zone called Pacheco-Gomez and said he and Rusk were going to talk with McQuarters, she said. When Zone didn’t hang up, Pacheco-Gomez said she heard a commotion and loud noises she later learned were gunshots.

McQuarters “begged for his life” before the men shot him, Giordani said.

“They weren’t there to see if Maria was there, they were there to kill Clarence and to send a message to Maria,” Giordani told the jury Wednesday.

Following the shooting, 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, 2850 E. Cedar Ave., where he broke into an apartment. Officers who surrounded the apartment arrested Rusk after he jumped from a balcony.

In addition to charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder, Rusk is charged with robbery and home invasion.

On Tuesday, Rusk took the witness stand and said he did not shoot McQuarters. Rusk said he picked up Zone at Pacheco-Gomez’s home after a night of partying, and the two men went to McQuarters’ apartment. Rusk said he thought they were at the complex to check on Pacheco-Gomez.

“I seen him making the mask right there, it was made from the T-shirt,” Rusk said. “I thought it was ridiculous. I thought he was being paranoid and overkill because she’s not going to see us.”

Chief Deputy Special Public Defender Clark Patrick said in closing arguments Wednesday that Rusk ran into the other apartment after the crash because he was scared from witnessing the shooting.

“Everything he did after the shooting was done out of panic and necessity,” Patrick said.

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

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