BUFFALO -- Just a day and a half into his trial, a Montrose man has changed his plea to guilty in the death of a Buffalo man in 2019.

Thirty-eight-year-old Alejandro Vega Jr. agreed to a plea agreement Friday that allowed him to avoid a murder charge. Vega pleaded guilty to 2nd-degree manslaughter and 1st-degree drug possession. He had been charged with two counts of 2nd-degree murder in the death of 34-year-old Justin Warnke.

Warnke's body was found in a t-shirt, shorts, and socks along a dead-end road in December 2019. Investigators say the victim had blunt force trauma on his head and chest. An autopsy determined Warnke was beaten and strangled to death.

According to the criminal complaint, Vega picked up Warnke from a hotel in Monticello in the early morning hours of December 28th and went back to Vega's Montrose apartment.

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Surveillance video showed Vega return to the hotel to try to retrieve Warnke's belongings around 11:30 a.m. but is turned away by hotel staff. Surveillance video from Vega's apartment complex shows him go to his garage where he gets some rope and an appliance cart.

Hours later Vega is then seen wheeling what appears to be a body tied to the cart and wrapped in a blanket and plastic bags. He then allegedly drives out of the parking lot with the body hanging out of the back of the trunk around 1:15 a.m.

Warnke's body was discovered hours later along a gravel road in Meeker County.

Vega was arrested on New Year's Day and told investigators he was with Warnke and they were doing drugs at his apartment. Vega said he then left for a time and when he returned Warnke was bleeding and unresponsive. Vega couldn't explain why he didn't call the police at that time. Vega said he knew he couldn't have a dead body in his apartment so he wrapped it up in a blanket, put garbage bags over Warnke's head because of the blood, tied him to a cart, and dumped the body.

Vega will be sentenced on October 8th.

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