Nunez Among 4 to Stand Trial in Stabbing Death of College Student - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Nunez Among 4 to Stand Trial in Stabbing Death of College Student

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The son of ex-Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and three other young men were ordered to stand trial on murder and other charges in the stabbing death of a college student during a fight near San Diego State University.

Esteban Nunez, 20, Rafael Garcia, 19, Ryan Jett, 23, and Leshanor Thomas, 20, are charged in the Oct. 4 death of 22-year-old Mesa College student Luis Santos.

Two other men were stabbed in the melee, and Santos' roommate, Brandon Scheerer, was punched in the eye.

After a 5 1/2-day preliminary hearing, Judge Cynthia Bashant ruled there was probable cause to believe the defendants were guilty of the murder charge, as well as assault and vandalism for allegedly puncturing the tire on a nearby trailer.

The victim's parents, who live in Concord near San Francisco, said going through the judicial process has taken its toll.

Kathy Santos said she misses her son, who she described as a popular, fun-loving person with many friends.

Fred Santos said the preliminary hearing is just one stage in the search for justice.

"I don't know how many more months or years this will drag on, but will I ever be satisfied? No. My son is dead, Luis is gone forever. There will never be satisfaction for me, no matter what happens, no matter the outcome," he said after the hearing. "There's no good outcome from the proceedings, no matter what."

The judge found that Nunez, Garcia and Jett were "talking smack" and "looking for trouble" at the apartment of Garcia's cousin in the hours leading up to the fatal confrontation.

The defendants were upset after being turned away from a nearby fraternity party, according to evidence presented at the hearing.

Defense attorneys said their clients acted in self-defense -- an issue the judge said should be decided at trial.

Bashant said the altercation was a fistfight that escalated into a knife fight, and that nobody in the victim's group had knives, a fact defense attorneys disputed because Jett was stabbed in the leg.

The judge said Nunez and Jett stabbed people and Thomas punched Scheerer.

"This was a concerted effort by a group of four," Bashant said at the end of the hearing.

A witness told detectives that Santos told him just before the fight that he carried a "piece" and wouldn't back down from anyone, and apparently the defendants' group overheard the remarks.

The judge reduced Thomas' bail from $1 million to $250,000 after dismissing an allegation that he had a knife during the altercation.

Jett remains jailed on $1 million bail. Nunez and Garcia, the son of an administrative law judge in Sacramento, are free on $1 million bail.

The defendants -- due back in court April 22 -- face more than 25 years to life in prison if convicted.

Deputy District Attorney Jill DiCarlo said Santos was stabbed in the heart and bled to death. Evan Henderson was stabbed in the back and stomach and Keith Robertson was stabbed in the shoulder.

Once they returned to the home of Garcia's brother in San Diego, Thomas drove everyone back to their homes in the Sacramento area, according to friend John 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.

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