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Torrez sentenced to life in Flying J murder

Modesto Alfredo Torrez

FARGO — The man who was found guilty of ordering the shooting death of a Grand Forks man at a truck stop in March 2016 was sentenced to serve two life terms in prison Friday, Dec. 1.

Modesto Torrez, 35, was found guilty in October of ordering the hit on 24-year-old Austin Forsman at the Flying J truck stop on the morning of March 11, 2016, in what Eighth Circuit Judge Ralph Erickson called the most nonsensical murder he has seen in 25 years as a judge.

A jury found Torrez was the leader of a methamphetamine trafficking ring that distributed at least 11 pounds of meth throughout the Red River Valley. He was convicted on counts of drug trafficking, murder in the furtherance of a drug conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Torrez was sentenced to life in prison for both murder and drug trafficking, to be served consecutively.

Krystal Lynn Feist, 32, pleaded guilty to firing a 20-gauge shotgun at Forsman's head outside the truck stop, the result of what testimony in Torrez's trial showed to be a miscommunication over the safety of Torrez's cousin.

Feist pulled the trigger, but a jury found Torrez ordered her to kill Forsman after his cousin, Aaron Morado, told him he was "stuck" with Forsman, whom he owed money for methamphetamine. Morado testified at Torrez's trial he tried to tell Torrez that he wasn't in danger, but that message never made it back to Feist, who testified she shot Forsman after receiving confirmation from Torrez on the phone.

Feist was sentenced to 30 years in prison for her role in the murder last month.

Feist, Torrez and Morado were among 13 charged in a superseding indictment into the murder and methamphetamine trafficking in the Red River Valley. All have either pleaded guilty or been convicted of their roles in the conspiracy.

Forsman's mother told Torrez he'd had no right to take Austin's life from her and that he'd denied Forsman the chance to know his child. She said she was happy Torrez would spend the rest of his life behind bars.

"Modesto Torrez, you took part of me when you took Austin," Carol Forsman said.

In his statement of allocution, Torrez said he was sorry about what happened to Forsman, but maintained he had not ordered Feist to pull the trigger.

"I did not order anybody to kill such a beautiful young man who was a creature of God," Torrez said.

Torrez said Feist changed her statements to implicate him and get credit from the government, and said prosecutors did not call the woman he was with during the murder, Lorie Ortiz, as a witness because she knew he didn't order the killing.

He referenced Bible verses about the poor being denied justice and asked to be sent to Colorado or Texas where he could be near his children.

Torrez's denial of responsibility drew ire from Erickson, who, in imposing his sentence, said Torrez had continually misled the court and deflected blame.

Erickson said Torrez's references to the Bible were blasphemy, though he later noted that did not impact his sentencing decision.

He said Forsman owed no one money and did nothing that warranted being killed, even in drug dealing communities.

"What this murder is plainly about is someone feeling disrespected and nothing more," Erickson said.

The judge said Torrez showed no chances of being able to rehabilitate and that he will continue to be a dangerous man.

"There is a wake of ruined lives because they have known Modesto Torrez," Erickson said.

Torrez was also ordered to pay $29,411 in victim restitution and will forfeit $12,620 seized from him during the investigation.