Jury finds Frias guilty on second-degree murder, manslaughter

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - A jury deliberated for just a few hours before finding Manuel Frias guilty of second-degree murder, manslaughter and drug charges.

Prosecutors say that Frias could not claim self-defense in a "drug deal gone wrong" because the claim could only be allowed by law if the person was acting reasonably.

The state says selling drugs and attempting to buy ammunition for a gun hours before meeting for a drug deal does not constitute a reasonable man. The jury agreed with the prosecution as they found Frias guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Samuel Crockett.

The Jan. 5 2018 shootings occurred in the 700 block of West Rice Street in Sioux Falls. Frias texted about "hitting a lick", which local law enforcement testified as an intent to rob during a drug deal. The defense claimed "hitting a lick" could be defined in many ways.

After the drug deal turned violent, two men died. One was a friend of Frias, Corey Zephier who died at the scene. The other man who later died from a shot to the head, Sam Crockett, had driven from Lake Andes to buy meth. Crockett's mother Laurie Vellek said she has good memories of her son as a teen working on cars and spending time with friends before he put himself at risk with drugs.

"I'm sorry, I feel bad for them, somebody lost a son too, other than me," Vellek said. "Can't get back. But this is what happens in a world of drugs."

Attorneys representing Frias said he was defending himself after an argument and shots were fired. The defense also said Frias should not be found guilty of robbery, as drug money was never in his possession, but rather in the purse of accomplice Crystal Habben. The jury agreed with the defense that he was not guilty of robbery.

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A Minnehaha County jury returned a verdict of guilty against Manuel Frias in the 2018 death of Samuel Crockett.

The jury found Frias guilty of second-degree murder, manslaughter, possession of a control substance, and possession of a firearm by a convicted drug offender.

According to the state's attorney's office, a pre-sentencing investigation will likely be the next step, followed by a sentencing. Frias' accomplice, Crystal Habben, accepted a plea deal in exchange for testifying against him. She was sentenced to five years and has been released on parole.

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The fate of a man charged in a deadly drug deal gone bad is now in the hands of a jury.

Closing statements in the trial of Manuel Frias wrapped up Monday morning.

The 36-year-old Frias is charged with first-degree murder in the January, 2018 death of Samuel Crockett.

Police say Frias, Corey Zephier and Crystal Habben planned to rob Crockett during a drug deal. During the incident, Crockett shot and killed Zephier, then Frias fatally shot Crockett.

During closing arguments Monday, Frias' defense argued the shooting was self-defense. Prosecutors said Frias can't reasonably claim self-defense, as Frias planned on robbing Crockett.