GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) -- A judge has ordered two Grand Rapids men to stand trial on first-degree murder charges in the fatal stabbing of a longtime Grand Valley State University student adviser at his home.
Twenty-four-year-olds Timothy J. "T.J." Miller and Maceo L. Scott are accused in the death of 50-year-old Santiago Zapata, who was found slain Sept. 25.
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Before the crime, say police, Miller and Scott were best friends, but each is now blaming the other for killing Zapata.
In court Wednesday, District Court Judge Benjamin Logan said it did not matter which suspect killed Zapata during the robbery at the victim's Myrtle St. NW home.
"The fact that one or the other commits the murder still makes both responsible, since both were involved in planning to rob," said Judge Logan.
Investigators say the actual crime happened on September 20, when Miller and Scott went to the Zapata's house. The goal was "to simply go in there, rob him, get his ATM card or some money, and leave -- not supposed to hurt him," said Detective Tim DeVries during Wednesday's testimony.
But in the struggle to steal Zapata's wallet and car, he was beaten, dragged to his basement and left for dead. Scott reportedly told officers Zapata was still alive.
"As Maceo is closing the door, he gets startled because he sees Mr. Zapata at the bottom of the stairs, whispering, 'Help me, help me'," DeVries said. "T.J. becomes upset and grabs a metal rod or metal pole of some sort, goes down the steps where Santiago is sitting and began beating him."
Zapata's family and friends attended Wednesday's hearing.
"He was my best friend for 13 years," said Patrick Reynolds. "It's horrible. I can't believe human beings would act that way."