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Trial begins for man accused of ordering Flying J murder in Grand Forks

Modesto Alfredo Torrez

FARGO—Opening arguments began Thursday morning, Sept. 28, in the trial of a man accused of ordering the death of a 24-year-old at a Grand Forks truck stop in 2016 as part of a meth trafficking conspiracy.

Modesto Alfredo Torrez, 35, is accused of being the ringleader of a conspiracy that trafficked large amounts of meth in the Red River Valley and calling for the death of Austin Forsman, who was murdered at the Flying J truck stop in Grand Forks on March 11, 2016.

Torrez originally entered a plea agreement with federal prosecutors admitting to charges of murder in the furtherance of a drug trafficking conspiracy, conspiracy to possess and distribute a controlled substance and death caused by use of a firearm during a crime of violence. But court records show that in June, he changed his mind and opted for a jury trial.

Jury selection was completed Tuesday, according to the clerk's office in the U.S. District Court in Fargo and opening arguments began Thursday.

Torrez has also been charged with obstruction of justice. In 2009, he was convicted in federal court of trafficking meth in the region and was sentenced to five years in prison and five years of supervised release.

He is one of 13 charged in a superseding indictment by prosecutors for trafficking bulk meth throughout the region and the only member of the group to opt for a jury trial. Most have entered plea agreements and some have been sentenced.

Krystal Lynn Feist pleaded guilty on Feb. 27 to murdering Forsman with a shotgun and is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 31, according to court records.

In June, Lorie Ortiz, 42, of Crookston, pleaded guilty to destroying cell phones with evidence related to Forsman's murder. She will be sentenced Nov. 27.

Three other men, Christopher Ryan Ringsrud-Knowles, 34, of Arvilla, N.D.; Daniel Rodriguez Jr., 26, of Crookston; and Aaron Lee Morado, 27, of Grand Forks, were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson for their roles in the conspiracy in May.

Ringsrud-Knowles pleaded guilty to breaking down the shotgun used in Forsman's killing and throwing it in a river. He was sentenced to four years and two months in prison for evidence tampering.

Rodriguez and Morado were labeled street-level distributors in the ring, and both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute controlled substance charges. Rodriguez was sentenced to seven years in prison. Morado was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years.

Four others indicted in the group—Vaughn Michael Scott, Christopher Alan Anderson, Andrew Robert Wiley and Andrew Neil Hills—pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances charges. The men were sentenced last week by U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson. Scott was sentenced to six years in prison. Anderson received a seven-and-a-half-year sentence. Wiley was sentenced to six years. Hills will spend eight years in prison.

Darla Kay Jerome was sentenced to two years and seven months in prison for her role in the conspiracy, and Walter Joseph Ganyo has been sentenced to seven years.

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