Man sentenced in 2021 Salem murder-for-hire with teen shooter

A Marion County Circuit judge has sentenced a 27-year-old man to nearly six years in prison for arranging a Salem teenager to shoot two people, one fatally, in a 2021 fake drug deal.

Javier Coyt pleaded guilty on June 11 in Marion County Circuit Court to attempted conspiracy to commit second-degree murder and second-degree assault. He was also sentenced to three years of post-prison supervision.

Coyt is the fifth person convicted in the shooting death of 24-year-old Joshua Steward and the shooting of his girlfriend, leaving her with serious injuries.

The double shooting produced a landmark case in the Salem area. 

Gerardo J. Trujillo-Torres, who was 16 at the time of the murder, was the first teenager in Marion County to be tried in adult court since the passing of a juvenile justice reform law in 2019. The law leaves it to judges to decide whether adult prosecution of a teen is appropriate.

Previously, offenders ages 15-17 who were charged with violent felonies were automatically prosecuted and sentenced as adults. After turning 25, those with time left in their sentence would be moved from juvenile facilities to a state prison.

Coyt was the last person to be charged in August 2022 with Steward’s murder. But he wasn’t arrested until January 2024.

He was an associate of a criminal enterprise run by Frederic Ferguson and Rayshawn Strickland, who were charged with ordering the murder, according to Marion County Deputy District Attorney Brendan Murphy.

Ferguson died of an apparent fentanyl overdose while awaiting trial in Marion County Jail in 2021. Strickland pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to commit Steward’s murder and racketeering, a charge used to prosecute organized crime bosses. Prosecutors under the charge linked him to 13 crimes between 2020 and 2021, including selling fentanyl and cocaine, burglary, robbery and murder. The crimes occurred in Marion and Lane counties as well as in New Jersey.

“The murder was over a perceived drug debt and their belief that Steward had cooperated with law enforcement,” Murphy wrote in 2023 sentencing memorandums while prosecuting Strickland and Trujillo-Torres.

An account of the murder was included in the memorandums.

In January 2021, Steward and his girlfriend arranged on Snapchat to buy $350 of cocaine from an employee of Strickland and Ferguson. 

Ferguson that same day contacted Coyt to arrange for the teen to kill Steward.

Steward and his girlfriend were directed to Hoover Elementary School on Northeast Savage Road. The school is turf claimed by the Savage United Norteños gang, also known as Savage Block.

Trujillo-Torres, a member of the gang, did not know either victim. He shot Steward three times and shot his girlfriend in the head.

Steward was found dead in the driver’s seat after crashing into a tree near Hoover Park. Salem police said he had been shot at the park, causing him to crash his car nearby. 

Judge Tracy Prall sentenced Coyt to five years and 10 months in prison. He declined to make a statement during the hearing.

Coyt previously pleaded guilty in 2014 to third-degree robbery and unlawful use of a weapon in Multnomah County. When he was 17, he robbed a man in Portland while wielding a machete. 

He told authorities at the time that he had been affiliated with the Norteños gang since he was in fifth grade but denied still being involved, according to court documents.


Salem teen sentenced to life in prison for 2021 murder-for hire

Eugene man sentenced in 2021 Salem murder-for-hire with teen shooter

Teen indicted in northeast Salem shooting in landmark Marion County case

Boy charged with murder first in Marion County to be tried as adult since Measure 11 reform

Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.

A MOMENT MORE, PLEASE – If you found this story useful, consider subscribing to Salem Reporter if you don’t already. Work such as this, done by local professionals, depends on community support from subscribers. Please take a moment and sign up now – easy and secure: SUBSCRIBE.

Ardeshir Tabrizian has covered criminal justice and housing for Salem Reporter since September 2021. As an Oregon native, his award-winning watchdog journalism has traversed the state. He has done reporting for The Oregonian, Eugene Weekly and Malheur Enterprise.