By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Unlike so many homicide cases, where witnesses melt away as quickly as suspects, detectives caught a break right away. San Diego homicide detective Amalia Sidhu was at the crime scene hours later when student Kristin Margullis walked over and disclosed that she had received two text messages from her friend John Murray that morning, saying that Murray's buddies may have stabbed a guy, then fled San Diego.
In the first message, Murray texted, "Yea just got home sorry I left like that some shit went down with my friends so we had to leave sd ... I need you to check on that for me tho ... and I can't believe u ditched me the one night I was there asshole lol."
The second read: "my buddies got in a fight one stabbed a guy and one got stabbed so we had to get him outta there."
A day later, on October 5, Briana Perez came forward, telling detectives about her cousin and his Sacramento friends who had drunkenly raged on about having been barred from attending a Greek frat party. She told police: "The more they drank the angrier they became."
When Murray was interrogated on October 7 at the Elk Grove Police Station near Sacramento, the Sacramento City College student told detectives he had been awakened the night of the killing at 2:45 a.m. by his Sacramento pals and "told to pack up my belongings" to head to Sacramento. He saw Ryan Jett "half-naked, with clothes in the sink."
Murray told police that Jett and Núñez admitted "at the house and on the ride home" that they had stabbed people. According to Murray, Núñez said, "I got one in the shoulder."
Leshanor Thomas, who had been "friendly" and smiling just hours before the murder, lost his smile on the drive home, Murray remembered, and was "very quiet — just like Rafael Garcia."
"Jett didn't want to field any questions," Murray added. "Questions were kept at a minimum."
Even so, Murray blurted out: "It was the worst idea to go to San Diego!" He said 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."
But Murray saw a bag of recently washed, wet clothing in the front seat, and Jett was nursing what police now speculate was a "friendly-fire" stab wound to his leg. (In court papers, Jett told his girlfriend someone stabbed him, so he stabbed the attacker in the shoulder.)
Records show that, from the moment they drew knives, the suspects thought only of themselves. They did not call an ambulance to help the young man bleeding on the sidewalk and never tried to learn if anyone had been gravely hurt. Once in Sacramento, Murray went to Núñez's apartment — to help him pack boxes to move back in with his powerful father, now a partner of Mercury Public Affairs, a highly influential lobbying firm in Sacramento, and his mother, Maria, who was celebrating her birthday. Jett, too, showed up with his girlfriend. Thomas did not join them.
Gathered at Núñez's apartment, Murray unloaded a bomb: He'd received a text from his friend Margullis, who'd heard that a friend of a friend had died of a stab wound in San Diego hours earlier. One question the shocked young men asked Murray was "if there were any suspects — or suspect drawings."
Núñez, who was later described by Thomas as a "fixer" of problems, blithely finished packing his boxes, the friends rolled a "blunt" to smoke, and they drove to the Sacramento River, police say, to get rid of the evidence. As Murray recounted, Núñez dumped the clothes and Jett lit them on fire.
But the code of silence was unraveling. Garcia, the judge's son, told Murray that he wasn't going to take the blame because Núñez and Jett had escalated the fight, and "for something he didn't do."
On October 5, San Diego detectives asked Garcia if he'd been in a fight. Garcia responded: "No." The detective asked, "Are you sure?" "Yeah." Then Garcia laughed nervously.
San Diego detectives searched the homes of Fabian Núñez and Jett's and Garcia's parents, and then three days later, on October 9, as police were conducting surveillance on Jett's house, Thomas showed up — and was taken to Elk Grove Police Station, where he was handed a search warrant for his DNA and clothes. He told police, "just me being pulled in is putting my safety at risk. So, I might as well just be honest and tell you everything I know."
When the detectives suggested his friends might try to hang him out to dry, Thomas replied, "Knowing who the parents are, why would they want to go down for this?"
Thomas began to talk. He told cops that he, Jett, Núñez and Garcia were sitting on a low wall near Cox Arena the night of the murder, when five drunk guys passed by, and two of them stopped (believed to be Santos and Scheerer) stared them down, crossed the street and started talking "a mess."