Witchcraft and black magic were at the center of a bizarre court hearing Monday for a man accused of killing his boss at a Las Vegas construction site last year.
According to several witnesses, slaying suspect Reyes Olivares, 36, told numerous people that he believed his construction supervisor, Vaughn Russell, 43, was a witch and was casting spells on him.
This perception, authorities said, prompted Olivares to fatally shoot Russell in the back on July 27, 2002, at a job site near Interstate 215 and Durango Drive.
“He said he had a curse over his money,” witness Marcos Sarabia said during a preliminary hearing in Justice Court Monday.
Another witness, Jorge A. Hernandez, said Olivares told him he believed Russell used black magic to curse the nails he was using to install roofing on under-construction houses.
“The nails were under a curse,” Hernandez said Olivares told him.
“When they were nailed, they broke,” Hernandez said.
Despite these strange claims, a prosecutor said Olivares was examined by state mental health professionals and deemed competent to stand trial.
Defense attorney Joe Abood of the Clark County public defender’s office declined to immediately comment on his client, who hails from a small town in Mexico.
Las Vegas homicide Detective Dan Long testified during Monday’s hearing that after the shooting, police interviewed Olivares, who did not dispute that he had shot Russell. Olivares talked about witchcraft as a potential motive.
“He referred to it as black magic,” Long said.
The detective said there were several incidents that Olivares took as indications that Russell had cast spells on him. One was the death of Olivares’ dog.
“He believed that the victim had killed his dog,” the detective testified.
Long said Olivares also was concerned that Russell had “a black tooth,” which indicated to Olivares that Russell was involved in witchcraft. And, Olivares was present when Russell passed gas, which he interpreted as another sign of the occult, the detective said.
“The fart was one of the things that made him believe it was black magic,” Long said.
Other witnesses said Olivares talked about witchcraft repeatedly. Sarabia testified that Olivares believed his brother’s wife was a witch as well.
“He said he was under a spell,” said Sarabia, who is Olivares’ cousin.
When asked in court if Olivares’ sister-in-law was a witch, Sarabia said:
“I don’t know if she is a witch or not.”
Hernandez said prior to the killing, Olivares talked about taking a nap on the job and being bitten on the leg. Olivares said he believed Russell had bitten him while he was sleeping, but when Olivares went to show his co-workers the bite mark on his leg, there was none.
“I thought he was not right in his head,” Hernandez said.
“Perhaps he had used some alcohol or drugs the night before and he was under the influence,” Hernandez testified.
Hernandez said on the morning of the killing, Olivares flashed a gun and said “he was going to kill the boss.”
“I did not believe him,” Hernandez said.
After hearing the witness testimony, Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Karen Bennett-Haron ordered Olivares to District Court to face a murder charge. An arraignment date was set for late August.