By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
Santos and his apartment-mate in San Diego, family friend Brandon Scheerer, were also out for a night of party-hopping near the San Diego State campus. Santos lightheartedly tried to coerce Sabahi into joining them. Sabahi turned him down — he had two tests on Monday. “That was the last time I talked to him,” Sabahi tells L.A. Weekly.
“Lu was the one who would push us out the door: Let’s go! Let’s go!” said friend Dillard, who had planned to catch up with Santos that night. “By the time we got there, he had already left for another party.”
Santos and Scheerer eventually met up with friends Keith Robertson, Jason Fiore and Evan Henderson — who were roommates. Cops say it was these five mostly drunken but almost certainly unarmed young men who soon got into a sidewalk fracas near Cox Arena with another group of drunken young men — Núñez, Garcia, Jett and Thomas — some of whom had knives.
Amid conflicting stories about what went down, the version from an independent eyewitness, student Connor Henderson (no relation to Evan), is expected to be key to the case. Henderson told authorities he believes that Núñez’ bunch overheard Santos telling Henderson — a stranger to both groups of men — that Santos once got beaten up in Tijuana and now carried “a piece.” For emphasis, Henderson says, Santos patted his waistband. Henderson says the Núñez group was hanging out not far away, and began throwing insults at Santos, threatening to beat him up. One of Núñez’ friends, described in a police search warrant as the “white male,” allegedly bragged, “Well, you got your piece, I’ve got mine.” Santos allegedly retorted that he “had his thang” with him. Then, Henderson says, one of Núñez’ group responded, “Use it then, pussy ... we all got weapons ... use it if you got it.”
Minutes later, San Diego Police Department and California State University Police officers responded to a 911 call at 2:16 a.m. Racing to the scene, officers found Santos dying. Paramedics were tending his injured friends Brandon Scheerer, 24, whose eye was damaged by a rough punch; Evan Henderson, 20, stabbed in the stomach and back; and Keith Robertson, 22, stabbed in the left shoulder.
The next day, October 5, student Briana Perez’ father in Sacramento contacted San Diego detectives to report that his daughter had been hanging out in San Diego with her cousin Rafael Garcia and his friends from Sacramento the previous night. Put on the line by her dad, Perez told police that the Núñez group had been at her place downing shots of Captain Morgan — and opening beer cans with sharp pocketknives, boasting that this was “how we do it in Sac Town.”
According to police documents, “The more they drank, the angrier they became,” she said of Núñez, Jett and her cousin — all of them brooding over having been refused entry to a fraternity party earlier that night because they weren’t “Greek.” She reported that one of them said, “Those faggots wouldn’t let us in. ... Let’s go burn down their house!” Thomas, she says, was the only one who sat quietly watching TV.
Testimony by Núñez’ friend Murray shows that, at about the same time San Diego police got the call from Perez’s father, the destruction of evidence and attempted cover-up had already begun hundreds of miles away in Sacramento. Murray had not been at the scene of the killing, but had been awakened from a deep sleep and told by Núñez that the group had been in a knife fight and had to leave for Sacramento right away.
On the tense ride home to Sacramento, Murray recalls saying, “It was the worst idea to go to San Diego.” He says Jett replied, “Damn right. I can’t deal with this. I already have two felonies. I don’t need to take the fall for this.”
The next morning, Murray heard from his friend Margullis, who informed him that her friend’s friend Lu Santos had been knifed to death in San Diego several hours earlier. Murray realized the worst. He went over to Núñez’ Sacramento apartment and dropped his bomb on the group.
“They were kind of shocked,” Murray testified. One of them had a particularly telling response, asking Murray “if there was any suspects or suspect drawings.”
The reaction is not, perhaps, what their parents would have hoped. Murray claims that Esteban Núñez, having just learned of Santos’ death, actually finished packing — for a planned move back to his parents’ $1.2 million home. Murray, to treat a bad headache, rolled a big “blunt.” Then they, Jett and Garcia drove to a gas station, pumped $1.30 in gasoline into a big paper cup, and drove to the Sacramento River. Standing close to the water, Núñez allegedly dumped either bloodied shorts or a T-shirt on the ground, Jett poured gas on it, and the clothing went up in flames.