By Eric Rodriguez
SANTA MARIA, CA – Eighteen year-old Fernando Camarillo Cervantes will stand trial for murder after his preliminary hearing here in Santa Barbara County Superior Court Monday before Judge James Herman.
Cervantes, represented by private Attorney Michael Scott, is accused of killing Rafael Santos in May of this year.
Cervantes is accused of not just murder—to which he pled not guilty June 17—but also of a series of enhancements pertaining to the use of a firearm and violent murder along, with the enhancement to not be granted probation.
On May 30, police officers were dispatched to the area of Boone and Curryer street to investigate a possible shooting that occurred around 10 p.m.
Deputy District Attorney Alexander Harrison called to the stand Santa Maria Police Officer Amner Rubio, who found the victim near 504 W. Boone St. on his back with his eyes closed. He also noticed that the individual wasn’t breathing and had blood near his left collar bone.
Rubio also stated that the victim was transported to Marian Hospital where he died.
After Rubio’s testimony, Police Officer Caleb Scherrer confirmed that he obtained surveillance footage of the incident that happened on May 30 and shared it with Detective Shane Armstrong.
Patrol Officer Victor Cortez also testified in court, confirming the location of one of the buildings from which the investigators obtained surveillance footage and which he also delivered to Armstrong.
In sequence, Officer Oscar Corral, part of the detective bureau, questioned a witness who had blood marks and redness around his face, which to him appeared as if he had been involved in a fight. The victim turned out to be his uncle.
The witness disclosed that he and his uncle went out drinking near Chumash but eventually went back to Santa Maria to meet up with Santos’s other cousin to continue drinking near 600 Curreyer St.
The witness noted that after purchasing more alcohol Santos and a cousin got into a heated argument about women, to the point that made him feel like getting out of the car.
The witness continued to disclose to Officer Coral that once they reached 600 Curreyer St. to continue drinking he stepped out of the car to urinate and when he returned to the car he saw his uncle fighting three males, one of which was the cousin.
At this point Officer Coral mentioned the witness engaged in the fight to aid his uncle and shortly afterwards he heard a gunshot and saw a gun pointed at him and he said, “All right, I’m done, I’m done,” and fled the scene to get help from a bystander to call the police, but was unable to get help.
When confronted about multiple details of the night of the event, suspect Cervantes continued to reply that he didn’t know what happened.
During the second interview at the Santa Barbara County Jail a few hours after the initial interview, Cervantes confirmed that he made a truthful statement about the incident that occurred while he was being booked.
Law enforcement officers said during the interview Cervantes said that he wanted everyone to stop fighting, which is why he took out the gun, closed his eyes and fired to get people to stop.
It was also noted that he allegedly wrote an apology letter in Spanish to the victim’s family (translated by an officer ).
Cervantes allegedly wrote, “I am sad for what happened with your family. I am sorry for what happened. I was not in the right mindset…I know that I have to pay for my consequences but I wanted to tell you guys that the truth is I’m sorry, and hope you can forgive me…”
At the end of the preliminary hearing, defense Attorney Scott said there was enough evidence to claim voluntary manslaughter, and said that his client felt threatened and was fearful for his friend.
In rebuttal, the DDA claimed that the victim was shot when trying to get away from the altercation, and said that Cervantes is unreliable based on the nature of his interviews and the “lies.” And he noted the defendat’s alleged destruction of his clothing he wore the night of the incident and the weapon used.
Judge Herman said the malice of forethought for murder and voluntary manslaughter can occur in a matter of seconds, but because the defendant purposefully armed himself and went out of the vehicle to get involved, and is seen through video evidence shooting the victim when the victim was moving away from the altercation, there is enough evidence that points toward probable cause.
Cervantes’ bail is still set for $2 million and he remains in custody with arraignment and trial setting set for Nov 18.