Aurora man sentenced to life in prison plus 126 years for 2016 Thanksgiving Day slaying

Pictured: Francisco Talamantes. Courtesy of the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

AURORA | An Aurora man convicted of murdering another man he believed to be a snitch in 2016 has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to Arapahoe County prosecutors. 

An Arapahoe County District Court judge on June 21 sentenced Francisco Martin Talamantes, 30, to life in prison plus 126 years for the Nov. 24, 2016 killing of 45-year-old Eduardo Hernandez-Zuniga at an Aurora motel, according to the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. 

A jury found Talamantes guilty of first-degree murder, burglary, car theft, arson and tampering with evidence on Jan. 15, 2019.

Jurors determined Talamantes and two other men shot Hernandez-Zuniga through a doorway at the now-closed Travelodge motel on East Sixth Avenue on Thanksgiving Day 2016. Talamantes and his accomplices, 20-year-old Luis “Malo” Zamora-Ornelas and 30-year-old David Alberto “Pato” Garcia, had entered Hernandez-Zuniga’s motel room searching for a different man the group believed had “snitched,” according to the local DA’s office. The man the trio was originally looking for was not in the room when they arrived.

Still, the group got into an argument with Hernandez-Zuniga and promptly shot him in the arm and chest. He later died at University of Colorado Hospital. 

The innocent victim had his life ended, because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler said in a statement.

After identifying Talamantes as a suspect through witness interviews and video surveillance footage, investigators with the Denver Police Department found him driving a stolen Hyundai Sonata the following day. Officers pursued Talamantes until he ditched the Sonata near West Cedar Avenue and South Tejon Street in Denver, set the car on fire, and entered another stolen vehicle. The pursuit continued with Talamantes driving the new car, a Ford Edge, at high speeds on portions of the Highline Canal bike path. 

Police finally arrested Talamantes, who already had a lengthy criminal history, after he tried to flee from officers on foot near East Eighth Avenue and Canosa Street.

The younger of Talamantes’ two accomplices in the Travelodge slaying, 20-year-old Zamora-Ornelis, was found dead on the porch of a north Denver home shortly after Hernandez-Zuniga was killed.

The older of the two accomplices, 30-year-old Garcia, was arrested in Denver about a week after Talamantes was taken into custody. Police determined Garcia shot and killed another man in a road rage incident moments before he was arrested. An Arapahoe County jury eventually convicted Garcia of second-degree murder for his role in the road rage shooting, and an Arapahoe County judge later sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“These men cared nothing for human life, rule of law or the safety of those around them,” Kelley Dziedzic, one of the deputy district attorneys who prosecuted both Garcia and Talamantes, said in a statement.. “Mr. Hernandez-Zuniga was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. He did nothing that warranted his death and did not deserve to die. I am glad his killers got what they deserve.”