Man guilty in first trial linked to 2 murders in SW Michigan

February 12, 2018

Zachary Patten of Portage, right, sits in court in Klalmazoo, Mich., on felony charges of open murder, carrying a concealed weapon and felony firearm in Kalamazoo, and felony murder, open murder, first-degree home invasion and felony firearm charges in St. Joseph County. Patten was found guilty in the July 2017 murder of Graciela Portillo-Esparza. (Mark Bugnaski/Kalamazoo Gazette-MLive Media Group via AP)

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

The verdict against Zachary Patten was returned Monday in a Kalamazoo County court. He was convicted of killing Graciela Portillo-Esparza last summer.

Patten didn’t deny what happened but told police that he was aiming for the victim’s brother. He 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.

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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