Kzoo Co. jury: Suspect in 2 murders guilty in 1st trial

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KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP/WOOD) — A man charged with killing two people in two counties in southwestern Michigan has been convicted of first-degree murder in the first trial.

A Kalamazoo County jury returned its verdict against Zachary Patten Monday for the July 20 murder of Graciela Portillo-Esparza.

Patten didn’t deny what happened but told police that he was aiming for the victim’s brother. Patten’s girlfriend told police he was jealous of her ex-boyfriend, Oscar Portillo-Esparza.

Patten now faces an automatic life sentence without a chance for parole.

Patten is also charged with murder in St. Joseph County. Police say he drove about 30 miles after killing Portillo-Esparza and shot his ex-wife’s husband.

Police reports obtained by 24 Hour News 8 indicate Patten was agitated and upset when he returned home the evening of the shooting, and was due in court the next day for a hearing about his parenting time and child support.

The prosecutor told jurors that Patten “almost appeared to be a man on a mission” last July. He was arrested in South Bend, Indiana, after voluntarily walking up to police.

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