The state has landed a star witness in the case against the accused shooter in a triple homicide and kidnapping last year in Queen Creek.
Jesse Rivas, 24, was facing mandatory prison in an unrelated armed robbery attempt.
But under a plea deal signed April 25, he will be put on probation as long as he testifies truthfully against Rodrigo Cervantes Zavala.
Cervantes is accused in the July 10 fatal shooting of his inlaws, Saul Lopez Acosta, 63; Trinidad Castro Acosta Roman, 51; and Jesus Manuel Acosta, 19.
He also is accused of kidnapping his children, Bryan Cervantes, 2, and Jennifer Cervantes, 4. Jennifer was killed in an unrelated hit-andrun accident in January.
The charges filed against Cervantes include three counts of first-degree murder, two counts of custodial interference and one count of burglary.
Maricopa County sheriff’s investigators allege that after the shooting in the 19700 block of East Chestnut Drive, Cervantes, 35, took his children and fled to Mexico, where he was captured July 18. The children were returned to their mother.
Karla Momberger, Cervantes’ defense attorney, said it was no surprise Rivas struck a deal because the state had leverage on him.
According to court records, Rivas unwittingly drove his longtime friend to the shooting scene and actually entered the house, ransacked it to stage a burglary, and then helped find the children — all at Cervantes’ command.
Rivas’ relatives said in an August interview that he burst into tears while recounting that night.
A few days before the slayings, Rivas tried to steal a man’s car at gunpoint in the 4400 block of North 37th Avenue, and then fired three shots at the victim as he fled, according to court records.
The murder trial is set for Oct. 16, but there will be some legal issues to work out first.
Momberger has filed a motion to throw out statements Cervantes made to a detective during an interview July 18 in Mexico. Momberger claims Cervantes’ statements “were involuntary and taken in violation” of his right to remain silent.