Preliminary Hearing For Men Accused In College Student Murder - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Preliminary Hearing For Men Accused In College Student Murder

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The son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and another man admitted stabbing someone during a fight near San Diego State University last fall, a friend of the defendants testified today.

The testimony of 20-year-old John William Murray came at a preliminary hearing for Esteban Nunez, Rafael Garcia, Ryan Jett and Leshanor Thomas, who are charged with murder and other counts in the Oct. 4 death of 22-year-old Luis Santos.

Deputy District Attorney Jill DiCarlo said Santos was stabbed in the heart and bled to death, another man was stabbed in the back and stomach, and a third was stabbed in the shoulder. A fourth victim was punched in the eye and had to undergo plastic surgery, DiCarlo said.

Murray testified that he and Garcia had planned a trip to San Diego from Sacramento -- where they lived -- and Nunez and Jett decided to come along.

The witness said his group met up with Thomas at the San Diego home of Garcia's brother, where they drank beer and Captain Morgan rum.

Jett, 23, Garcia, 19, and Thomas and Nunez, both 20, headed out to a party they had heard about, but Murray said he stayed behind.

The witness said he was awakened about 2:45 a.m. and told to start packing to return to the Sacramento area.

Murray testified that he saw Jett standing "half-naked" in the kitchen with clothes in the sink, soaking in water and soap.

The witness said Nunez and Jett were talking about an "altercation" and Jett getting stabbed in the right leg.

"They told me they had gotten into a fistfight," Murray testified.

He said Nunez told him, "I stabbed someone and Jett stabbed someone, too."

Murray told police that Nunez, Garcia and Jett all had knives that night.

The witness testified that as they were loading the car to return to Sacramento, Nunez told him that some "frat guys" started the fight.

Murray said Nunez told him that he, Garcia and Jett pulled out knives to defend themselves.

The confrontation started out as a verbal interchange, then escalated when one of the young men in the victim's group went back to the fraternity house and came back with more friends, Murray testified.

After Jett got stabbed, the three defendants pulled out their knives in fear in self-defense, Murray said he was told.

Nunez said "while trying to help protect his friend, Rafa (Garcia), he stabbed somebody in the shoulder," Murray testified.

Once they returned to the home of Garcia's brother, Thomas drove everyone back to the Sacramento area, according to Murray.

On the trip north, Jett and Nunez said the knives "should be gotten rid of," Murray testified.

Once back in the Sacramento area, Jett got some gas at a convenience store and burned some clothes near a river, the witness said.

He said he overheard Jett and Nunez talk about throwing knives in the river, but felt uncomfortable and walked back to his truck before Nunez, Garcia and Jett returned.

Once in his truck, Murray said Jett and Nunez said "we weren't to speak about this instance again," referring to what happened at the river.

Murray testified that Nunez tried to reassure him that he didn't kill anyone and that he only stabbed someone in the shoulder.

Garcia said that during the fight, the defendant's group ran across the street to confront the victims' group, and that he wasn't going to take the blame for Jett's actions, according to Murray.

"He (Garcia) said he shouldn't be held responsible because he wasn't in the fight," Murray testified.

Nunez's attorney, Brad Patton, said that when the groups encountered each other, Santos told the defendants, "I've got my piece. What about you?"

DiCarlo said no one in the victim's group had a weapon.

Garcia's lawyer, Paul Pfingst, said his client, the son of an administrative law judge in Sacramento, ran when the fight broke out and wasn't there when Santos was stabbed.

At the defendants' arraignment last December, the prosecutor said a witness saw Thomas with a knife before the fight.

The preliminary hearing, which is being held in the courtroom of Judge Cynthia Bashant to determine if there is enough evidence against the defendants for them to stand trial, could last up to three days.

Nunez and Garcia are free on bond, but their co-defendants remain in custody.

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