Just two weeks before the first anniversary of the death of 22-year-old San Diego college student Luis Santos, one of the four men charged with his fatal stabbing pleaded guilty September 16. Rafael Garcia, the son of a respected Sacramento administrative law judge, also agreed to testify against the others, including Esteban Nunez, the son of former state Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez.
"I don't know what his sentence will be so I don't know if it will be a good thing or not," said Santos' father Fred from his Concord home.
Regardless, it doesn't look good for Nunez and his friends.
Rafael Garcia and his father enter San Diego Superior Court in April
Garcia, 19, who attended a Catholic high school in Sacramento with Nunez, pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy to destroy evidence -- including a bloody shirt. In exchange for Garcia's testimony, the San Diego District Attorney's Office dropped the murder charge. According to the district attorney's office, Garcia's prison time will depend largely on his testimony in the upcoming trial.
There is also a hearing today in San Diego on a motion by the defendants to have the men tried separately.
Last December, college students Garcia, Nunez, Ryan Jett and
Leshanor Thomas were charged with the October 4, 2008 stabbing death of
an allegedly unarmed Santos after an alcohol-infused street brawl next
to the Aztec Recreation Center on the campus of San Diego State
The case has elicited the involvement of California's Democratic
Party political stars, from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to County
Federation of Labor chief Maria Elena Durazo -- all rallying around the
accused while doing nothing to support the family of the widely loved
dead young man, who went, simply, by the name Lu.
Garcia along with Nunez and Thomas are out on bail. Jett was unable to come up with the $1 million bond.
In April, San Diego Superior Court Judge Cynthia Bashant ruled at a
preliminary hearing that the four men must stand trial. Compelling
testimony came from Nunez's friend John Murray, who said that Nunez and
his friends, all from the Sacramento area, went to San Diego to party.
Murray said he decided not to go out partying that night, and instead
met a friend. Murray told the judge that he was awakened by Nunez and
his friends at 2:45 a.m. and informed that the group was immediately
driving home to Sacramento.
On the way back, Murray testified, Nunez
told him he had stabbed someone in the shoulder and that Jett stabbed
someone, too. Santos bled to death, another young man was stabbed in
the back and stomach, a third was stabbed in the shoulder and a fourth
was punched in the eye.
The following day, Murray testified that he watched Nunez and Jett
attempt to burn a bloody shirt down by the Sacramento River. Garcia was
also there at the time.
Garcia's attorney Paul Pfingst, the former San Diego District
Attorney, said during the preliminary hearing that there was no
evidence showing that Garcia was involved in the brutal attack.
"We think of him all the time," said Fred about his son who attended
Mesa College. "We cry at least once a week. People say time heals all
wounds but I don't think it is the case. No matter what the outcome is
there will never be a positive outcome. My son was murdered and four
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men are going to jail -- what is the positive outcome of that? For us
there will never be a positive outcome."
Santos' friends and family are planning a candlelight vigil for
October 4 outside the Aztec recreation center where Luis was killed.