SAGUACHE — Jury selection began Monday for the upcoming trial of Charles Moises Gonzales, 47, who is accused of murdering northern Saguache County resident Michael Rust nearly eight years ago.
A visiting judge ruled late in November 2016 there was probable cause to try Gonzales on all four counts in Rust’s murder — first-degree murder, first-degree burglary, tampering with evidence and possession of a weapon by a previous offender.
Crime of violence enhancers are attached to the murder and burglary charges.
Gonzales was previously serving time in a Colorado Department of Corrections facility in Cañon City on unrelated charges when the warrant was issued last year. He has been convicted of numerous weapons offenses, assaults, sexual assault, burglaries, theft, criminal trespass, escape and aggravated motor vehicle thefts, according to the warrant.
Rust disappeared from his Saguache County home March 31, 2009 after arriving at his residence following a grocery shopping trip to discover what he believed was a break-in. He called a friend and told her he was taking his gun and planned to follow tracks outside his home to see where they led.
Later his motorbike and a bloody vest were recovered but Rust’s remains could not be located.
The investigation into Gonzales’s involvement in the murder began after relatives reported to law enforcement authorities Gonzales said, “he did it” during a prison visit, asking his relatives to remove Rust’s body so law enforcement officials would not find it.
Gonzales’s son Michael told authorities the remains were likely located on property owned by his grandfather, Guadalupe Gonzales, which was adjacent to the Rust property.
Rust’s remains were then discovered in January of 2016 but were not confirmed by DNA analysis until late April that year. El Paso County Coroner Robert C. Brux, M.D. determined Rust died from a single gunshot wound which entered the back lower left quadrant of his head. Based on these findings, Brux ruled Rust’s death a homicide.
Charles Gonzales interview
According to law enforcement documents, Charles Gonzales spoke to Agents Pat Crouch and Joe Cahill, Deputy Wayne Clark and Department of Corrections investigator Larry Sabato on Feb. 17. He denied breaking into Rust’s home.
Gonzales maintains he acted in self-defense after Rust chased him onto his property on his motorbike, firing a gun at him and threatening him.
He told authorities he hit Rust with “a stick” in the back of the head. He said they then struggled for a gun Rust brought with him, it discharged, and Rust was hit. He claims he tried to revive Rust but was unsuccessful.
Nov. 2016 hearing
Despite a dogged defense mounted by his public defenders last November, Judge Adele Anderson explained she could not dismiss the fact Rust was assaulted and shot from behind, contrary to Gonzales claims in his confession that the two struggled over the gun and Rust was accidentally shot.
She discounted the defense’s claim there was no proof of a burglary at Rust’s home, asking, “Why would Rust leave in such a hurry and tell [his woman friend about the burglary]; he didn’t just make this up.” She called the evidence against Gonzales “authentic” and ordered his case be bound over to district court for adjudication.