GUILTY: Jury convicts Joseph Washington of 2nd-degree murder for 2017 Cherry Creek State Park slaying

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Pictured: Joseph Washington. Credit: Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office

AURORA | An Arapahoe County jury on Wednesday morning convicted a 31-year-old man of second-degree murder for fatally shooting Jackson Chavez at Cherry Creek State Park in 2017.

The jury of three men and nine women deliberated for slightly more than a day before convicting Joseph Wayne Washington of second-degree murder, a slew of felony drug charges and tampering with a witness, according to Vikki Migoya, spokeswoman for the 18th District Attorney’s Office.

Jurors acquitted Washington of soliciting murder from a pair of prisoners inside the Arapahoe County Jail in fall 2017.

Prosecutors accused Washington of shooting Chavez, 26, near a picnic area beside Cherry Creek Reservoir on Aug. 13, 2017. Moments before the shooting, the two men had gotten into a fistfight at a barbecue at the local park hosted by workers and frequent patrons of the Denver strip club PT’s Showclub.

Washington regularly dealt a variety of drugs to patrons at the club. Authorities found thousands of dollars worth of drugs — including LSD, cocaine and methamphetamine — in Washington’s home and car upon serving a search warrant after the shooting.

According to state records, Washington has been arrested 13 times Colorado since 2007, including on weapons and assault charges. He has also used the alias “Baby Boy.”

Washington was found guilty of shooting Chavez twice — once in the neck and once in the torso — with a Hi-Point handgun, according to arguments laid out at the end of Washington’s two-week-long trial on Monday.

After shooting Chavez, Washington fled the park — driving a truck about 100 miles per hour on Interstate 225 — and spent the night in a local hotel with acquaintances, prosecutors said. Officials with the FBI and the Aurora Police Department arrested him at an Aurora gas station the next day, Aug. 14, 2017.

After his arrest, Washington repeatedly contacted his former girlfriend, Samantha Grat — violating a protection order — and attempted to prevent her from testifying.

“’I don’t know’ needs to be her favorite words,” Washington said of Grat to an acquaintance after the killing, according to prosecutors.

After initially telling investigators she was in Colorado Springs at the time of the murder, Grat later cooperated with police and prosecutors. She provided lengthy testimony at the weeks-long trial.

Jurors convicted Washington of 14 of the 16 counts filed against him.

The jury met in the middle regarding the top count of murder. Prosecutors had asked for a first-degree murder conviction; Washington’s public defender argued her client acted in self defense and asked for a manslaughter conviction. 

The prospective sentencing range for second-degree murder is between 16 and 48 years, according to Migoya. 

A sentencing hearing in Washington’s case has not yet been scheduled.