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Friday, August 26, 2005



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CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Arthur Birano went on trial in Circuit Court yesterday on charges of second-degree murder, first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary and firearm offenses in the April 2001 home invasion that killed Darryl Lee.




Botched ‘ice’ robbery
called motive for killing

The defendant instead blames
two friends who agreed to testify

Arthur Birano broke into a Salt Lake home, threatened the lone male resident at gunpoint and shot him point-blank in the chest -- all for "ice" and cash, prosecutors said.

Birano, 33, went on trial in Circuit Court yesterday on charges of second-degree murder, first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary and firearm offenses in the April 2001 home invasion that killed Darryl Lee, 46.

Birano contends he was not there the night of the robbery, and suggested that two of his friends were responsible for robbing and killing Lee.

But deputy prosecutor Chris Van Marter said the evidence will show that Birano was the "leader" who recruited two people to help him pull off the robbery.

Van Marter said that Birano asked Sharmaine Barros, a longtime friend, if she knew anyone with drugs and cash whom he could rob.

Barros told Birano about Lee, whom she had known for about five years and dated, according to Van Marter.

She knew Lee kept money and drugs in a backpack and a safe at his Salt Lake home, Van Marter said. She provided Lee's name and address because Birano told her he was only going to "steal Darryl's stuff" and that no one would get hurt.

Birano also convinced friend and convicted burglar Michael Randall to help him break into Lee's home and act as a lookout.

Several days later, Birano, armed with a 9 mm Glock semiautomatic, and Randall, armed with a shotgun, broke into Lee's home at around 3 a.m. by cutting through a screen window, Van Marter said.

While Randall acted as lookout, Birano knocked Lee to the floor when he opened his bedroom door. Birano then pointed the gun at Lee, ordering him not to move as he searched for a backpack that Barros had said contained cash and drugs.

He found the backpack and then began searching for the wall safe when Lee, disregarding orders, got up. That was when Birano shot him "point-blank range in the chest," Van Marter said.

He and Randall allegedly fled with the backpack, which they later learned contained no drugs and $2,000 in cash. Birano kept $1,500 and gave $500 to Randall and Barros, Van Marter said.

After Lee's death, Birano was found with 9 mm ammunition that matched the 9 mm slug found embedded in the bathroom door at Lee's home, he said.

When Birano was arrested, Randall went to police and admitted his involvement and Birano's role. Randall told police Birano had threatened to harm him if he told anyone, Van Marter said.

Barros initially denied any involvement, but after she was arrested in an unrelated drug case and offered a deal, she agreed to cooperate.

Defense attorney Nelson Goo said Barros and Randall planned and executed the burglary-robbery and have much to gain by lying and blaming Birano.

Goo described Lee as a big-time ice dealer and user who was on the brink of a large-scale drug deal with Los Angeles connections. His house was wired with a sophisticated video surveillance system, and he kept a cache of weapons in his home, Goo said.

Before Lee died he had about $100,000 in his possession, Goo said.

If convicted of murder, Birano faces a life term with the possibility of parole.



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