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Utah man admits killing and burying body of Californian

Published September 25, 2013 7:53 pm

Courts • Suspect claims he stabbed victim in self-defense, but says jury would likely find him guilty.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Ogden • For Victor Flores' family, the hardest part was not knowing.

For 10 months, Flores' information sat in a missing persons database. For 10 months, they didn't know if Flores was alive — if he had enough food to eat or clothes to wear — or if he had died.

Last February, their worst fears came true when the 25-year-old California man's body was unearthed in a Weber County backyard.

"To see him just thrown in the ground, it hurts me," brother Hugo Flores said during a hearing in Ogden's 2nd District Court on Wednesday. "He was like my best friend."

On Wednesday, Daniel Rivera Jr., 33, pleaded guilty to second-degree felony manslaughter and third-degree felony desecration of a human body for Flores' death.

Rivera is set be sentenced on Nov. 6, but because Flores' family — who are from the Los Angeles area — may not be able to return to Utah on the sentencing date, they were allowed to address the court and Rivera during Wednesday's hearing.

Flores' mother, brother, sister and the mother of his 2-year-old daughter all gave statements in court Wednesday, telling how Flores was a good man, and that they felt betrayed by Rivera, who lied to them about their family member's whereabouts.

"He not only killed my son, he killed all of us," mother Leena Flores said through a Spanish interpreter. "My son was a good son."

Rivera, who was charged just two weeks ago for the 2011 death, faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced.

A family friend told The Salt Lake Tribune in 2011 that Flores left California for Utah on May 7, 2011, with Rivera, who reportedly had promised Flores a construction job.

Deputy Weber County Attorney Branden Miles said Wednesday in court that on May 9, 2011, Flores and Rivera got into a confrontation while inside of Rivera's vehicle.

"[Rivera] gained control of a knife, and stabbed [the victim] in the chest," Miles said, while members of Flores' family wept in the gallery. "It penetrated his heart, and he died almost immediately."

Defense attorney Camille Neider told Judge Ernie Jones that the guilty plea was an Alford plea, indicating that while Rivera does not admit guilt, he believes prosecutors could likely prove the charges to a jury.

"He has maintained the death was caused in self-defense," Neider told the court.

Flores' body was found in February 2012, when police received a tip directing them to a home at 3812 W. 4550 South, in Roy.

On Feb. 9, 2012, after three days of digging, police found Flores' body under three to four feet of earth in the backyard of the home.

After Flores' body was found, the homeowner, Sarah Munn, was charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly lying to police.

According to court documents filed in Munn's case, Rivera received a laceration to his face that required medical treatment and 35 stitches on May 9, 2011. Munn initially told police that Rivera — who lived at the Roy home part-time and is the father of three of Munn's children — had received the injury during a road rage incident, then later told police that she caused the cut herself.

Two days later, Rivera rented a tractor in his name and dug a hole in Munn's backyard. According to police, Munn told them that the equipment was used to dig a hole for an in-ground trampoline, but was later filled because the hole was the wrong size.

Flores' body was found in the same area where the hole had been dug, according to the probable cause statement.

Earlier this month, Munn pleaded guilty in a separate drug case, and the obstruction of justice charge was dismissed.

Rivera, who has prior convictions for drug distribution and escape from custody, is currently residing at the Utah State Prison in Gunnison.

jmiller@sltrib.com