SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Two gang members fatally shot a man in Skyline five years ago in retaliation for one of them being beaten up 10 days earlier by the victim, a prosecutor said Thursday, but attorneys for both defendants said authorities lacked sufficient evidence to prove their clients carried out the Halloween night murder.
In his closing argument, Deputy District Attorney Christopher Lawson said Michael Jay Aguon, 24, and Rafael Meraz, 20, and an unidentified third assailant went to the home of Vidal Balderas Jr. the night of Oct. 31, 2007, to atone for the disrespect the victim had shown when he and other family members beat up Meraz and took away his gun on Oct. 21, 2007.
Meraz -- who has had ridden up to the Balderas residence shouting gang slogans, according to court testimony.
A confidential informant testified that Aguon bragged about the shooting two days after Balderas was killed.
"They saw it as an opportunity to strike back," Lawson told the jury in his summation. "This is the life these guys were leading."
Balderas, 32, was confronted about 7:45 p.m. after taking his daughter trick-or-treating. He was shot twice on the patio, then three more times as he staggered out front, Lawson said.
One of the assailants said, "What's up? What's up now?" as Balderas was shot, his sister told police.
A gun was never recovered, but police found a skeleton mask and black bandana -- similar to ones worn by the attackers -- during a search of Meraz's home.
His attorney, Jane Gilbert, told the jury that the victim's sister described just one shooter and eyewitnesses out trick-or-treating described seeing one person running from the scene.
"He (Meraz) didn't shoot him (Balderas), and there's no evidence that he was there," Gilbert said.
Bart Sheela, the attorney for Aguon, said the confidential informant was a seven-time convicted felon who didn't get her story straight.
"You can't trust his (Aguon's) life to her (the informant)," Sheela told the jury. "Mikey had nothing to do with it."
Sheela said Aguon was home the night of the murder helping his grandmother hand out Halloween candy.
Aguon and Meraz each face 50 years to life in prison if convicted.
Thanksgiving could see record-setting heat in San Diego County, according to forecasters, who also reported the smashing of temperature records across the county on Wednesday.
A charity run, meals for the needy, a long-running music festival and holiday shopping are on tap for Thursday's Thanksgiving Day in San Diego.
Your living room often becomes your work space if you work from home. If you have kids, the house can be even more chaotic. Well now, more women are able to take 10-15 steps out of their home and into their "she shed."
Around 60,000 passengers are expected to pass through San Diego's Lindbergh Field daily during the upcoming holiday weekend.
Thanksgiving meals were provided to the needy around San Diego County Wednesday, one day ahead of the holiday.
A pedestrian was killed Wednesday night in a hit-and-run crash in the Mountain View section of San Diego and police detained the driver, who fled the scene on foot after the vehicle struck a house.
U.S. and Japanese ships and aircraft were searching in the Philippine Sea on Thursday for three sailors missing since a U.S. Navy aircraft crashed a day earlier.
A decomposing body found inside a 55-gallon barrel that was floating in the San Diego Bay last month has been identified.
The always-heated topic of whether to begin holiday shopping on Thanksgiving Day will be raised again Thursday, as many chain stores will open their doors around San Diego one day before the so-called "Black Friday."