Accused shooter in Boulder County attempted carjacking charged with first-degree murder

The man accused of shooting and killing a woman during an attempted carjacking has been charged with first-degree murder.

Martin Cerda, 23, was charged in Boulder District Court Thursday with first-degree murder – extreme indifference, attempted first-degree murder, second-degree murder, four counts of attempted aggravated robbery, vehicular eluding and reckless driving.

Cerda was initially arrested on suspicion of second-degree murder, but prosecutors on Thursday opted for first-degree murder instead, alleging that Cerda “under circumstances evidencing an attitude of universal malice manifesting extremeindifference to the value of human life generally, knowingly engaged in conduct whichcreated a grave risk of death to persons other than himself, and thereby caused the death” of Taylor Smith, 21.

The codefendant in the case, Adriana Vargas, 24, was charged with second-degree murder, attempted aggravated robbery and possession of a weapon by a previous offender.

The second-degree murder charges for both Cerda and Vargas were filed under the felony murder theory, which allows prosecutors to charge defendants with murder if someone dies during the commission of a felony, in this case attempted robbery, even if they were not the ones directly responsible for the death.

Felony murder in Colorado was recently downgraded from a Class 1 to a Class 2 felony.

Both Cerda and Vargas appeared in court Thursday where they were advised of their rights and the charges against them by Boulder District Judge Patrick Butler.

Attorneys for both Cerda and Vargas asked for a status conference on Jan. 9 so they could see the evidence before deciding how long they would need for a preliminary hearing. Both Cerda and Vargas waived their right to a preliminary hearing within 35 days in light of the request.

Cerda and Vargas were arrested early Sunday in connection with the shooting of Taylor Smith, 21.

According to an affidavit, Cerda and Vargas fled Larimer County Sheriff’s Office deputies just after midnight Sunday before making their way to the area of U.S. 287 and Yellowstone Road, where they attempted to carjack a truck with Smith and her mother inside.

Witnesses said Cerda fired into the truck, hitting Smith. Smith’s mother drove away from the scene and then to the hospital, where Smith was pronounced dead.

Deputies and a K-9 team were able to track Cerda, Vargas and two other occupants of the vehicle to a property in the 10,600 block of Yellowstone Road, where they found all four hiding in a camper. They were all taken into custody without further incident.

The two passengers told deputies Cerda and Vargas, both of Greeley, had been using drugs and selling fentanyl the night before the shooting.

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