SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A gang member who was 15 when he allegedly shot and killed a Skyline man in what authorities described as a retaliation killing must stand trial on murder and other charges, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Rafael Meraz, now 19, is charged in the Halloween 2007 death of Vidal Balderas Jr. The 32-year-old victim, was shot six times as he returned home from taking his daughter trick-or-treating, died at the scene.
His sister, Wendy Balderas, testified during a two-day preliminary hearing that Meraz had come by her family's home 10 days earlier, shouting gang slogans and flashing gang signs.
After the defendant pulled up his shirt to show a weapon, he was punched by another man and his gun was taken away by the victim, the sister testified.
She said her brother was asking Meraz, "Why are you doing this? Who are you?"
"He (the defendant) said, 'I'm Grims. This is Lomita Village,"' the sister testified.
Meraz was arrested last April and charged as an adult.
Co-defendant Michael Aguon is also charged with Balderas's murder.
Maria Balderas testified Tuesday that her brother was attacked as he smoked a cigarette near the garage.
The victim's sister said she was sorting through Halloween candy for the children when she heard a gunshot around 7:45 p.m.
"I (saw) the person who shot my brother," the witness said. "My brother was trying to keep the gun from him (the attacker)."
Maria Balderas said she heard the gunman -- who wore a black "hoodie" and a black bandana -- say "What's up now" to her brother.
Judge Jeffrey Fraser ruled that enough evidence was presented for the case against Meraz to proceed to trial on charges that could bring a sentence of 50 years to life if he's convicted. An arraignment in Superior Court was set for Aug. 31.
In addition to murder, Meraz is charged with possession of an unregistered firearm, being a person prohibited from carrying a firearm and being a person prohibited from carrying ammunition, said Deputy District Attorney Christopher Lawson.
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The San Diego Humane Society today urged residents to volunteer their homes as foster spaces for the influx of animals typically lost after Fourth of July.
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