Co-workers’ argument over a broom and a shovel sparked a days-long feud that ended in murder last year at the Towne Centre mall in Mount Pleasant, a prosecutor said.
In their final spat on Aug. 13, 2014, Dennis Elvin Cervantes Pavon picked up a keyhole saw and plunged it through the heart of 28-year-old Raymond Muniz.
When the case went to trial last week, Pavon took the witness stand and said he had acted in self-defense. But a jury convicted him of murder Friday in downtown Charleston, and Circuit Judge Kristi Harrington sentenced him to 30 years in prison, the minimum term.
Pavon’s assistant public defender, Christina Parnall, said Monday that their case “raised issues of workplace bullying” but that they respect the jury’s verdict.
Both men were living in Richmond, Va., but had traveled to Mount Pleasant for a job. Pavon was from Honduras, but immigration officials would not say whether he was in the country legally.
The men were part of a construction crew doing renovations inside the Belk store.
About a week before it ended, their tiff started at the work site over a broom and a shovel, “of all things,” Chief Deputy Solicitor Bruce DuRant said.
“Since that time, there had been bad blood between them, which kind of came to a head” on the day of Muniz’s death, DuRant said.
They bickered throughout the day. Just before quitting time, one witness testified, Pavon picked up a sprinkler pipe and walked up to Muniz, who hoisted a hammer to defend himself.
But they didn’t fight.
Pavon went back to his work site and dropped his tool belt. He took out his saw and tucked it into his waistband, covering it up with his shirt, DuRant said.
He then confronted Muniz again with the pipe, the prosecutor said. Muniz blocked the blows with a piece of metal framing.
“Both ... ended up dropping their respective pieces of metal and locked up in a face-to-face confrontation,” DuRant said.
That’s when Pavon reached for his saw and jabbed it “straight through the victim’s heart,” DuRant said.
Pavon ran from the scene but was caught a day later in Isle of Palms. He said during his bond hearing that he had been wrongly accused of murder because the death didn’t happened like police said it did.
When he took the stand in his own defense, Pavon accused Muniz of taunting him.
“We maintain that ... Pavon was a victim of bullying,” Parnall said, “and (was) justified in using force to defend himself.”
Reach Andrew Knapp at 843-937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.