By Joshua Cenzano
SANTA BARBARA, CA – Josue Emanuel Torres, after his preliminary hearing here in Santa Barbara County Superior Court Monday, faces a trial on four felony counts after allegedly breaking into an elderly neighbor couple’s home and attacking the residents when confronted.
He is accused of attempted murder of one of the two residents, kidnapping of the other resident, and cruelty to elders, in addition to various criminal enhancements. An additional burglary charge was dropped by the judge.
Judge Clifford Anderson, III, heard testimony Monday from two of the officers on the scene on the afternoon of Dec. 10, 2019, when the incident occurred.
Officers Justin Hesketh and Blair Darr testified in court regarding the statements they took from witnesses that afternoon, including the two alleged victims and the man who initially called the police.
The victims were a couple living in a two-story house next to where Torres’s mother worked as a caregiver. The victims stated to the police that they had never met Torres before and that he was completely unknown to them at the time.
In his physical confrontation with the man in the house, Torres allegedly tackled him and kept him face-down on the ground in a choke hold with his right arm, cutting off the man’s ability to breathe.
Torres was briefly stopped by the man’s girlfriend, according to the testifying officers, after which Torres picked the woman up and carried her roughly 10 feet before dropping her on the ground.
Officer Hesketh provided the female victim’s account in the preliminary setting while Officer Darr recounted his interview with her boyfriend.
The attack had been precipitated, said officers, by the woman’s brief encounter with Torres both near the neighbor’s house where Torres’s mother worked and near her own.
According to Hesketh’s testimony, the woman had brought a fruit salad to the neighbor that employed Torres’s mother, a man in his nineties, when she observed Torres standing calmly on the driveway watching her.
After dropping off the salad, the victim returned home where she saw Torres standing outside her bedroom window before following her to the kitchen door. Seeking help, she called for her boyfriend while Torres took the opportunity to break in through the kitchen door.
The boyfriend confronted Torres, and a fight moved outside as the couple attempted to get help, where a man driving along the street outside witnessed Torres attacking the couple and called the police. This man’s statement was also provided by Hesketh in court.
According to Darr, the male victim said that, while being attacked by Torres, he was “feeling faint, like he was going to pass out, and that he thought he was going to die.”
In addition to the attempted murder of the male victim, Torres is also charged with cruelty against elders, since the man was 71 years of age at the time, and a crime against him is therefore deserving of special consideration under California law. The other victim was 64 years old.
Torres’s defense attorney, Jenny Andrews, argued that based on the officers’ recapitulation of the victims’ and witness’s statements there was insufficient evidence presented to support all counts.
Since Torres was unknown to the couple, Andrews argued that there was no premeditation or deliberation, the establishment of which being necessary to be guilty of attempted murder.
“This goes beyond reasonable inferences,” said Andrews, arguing that Torres’s alleged actions did not demonstrate any premeditated intent to kill.
Despite disagreeing in judgment in the preliminary setting, the court issued a finding at Andrews’s request which affirmed the lack of premeditation.
Andrews also argued that Torres could not have reasonably known that the male victim was over the age of 65, which affords him special protection as an elder under the law. Reasonable knowledge of such is a necessary requirement under the statute, but the judge disagreed with the defense on this point as well.
On the kidnapping charge, the defense argued that carrying the female victim 10 feet does not constitute kidnapping or false imprisonment, but the court rejected that argument.
The judge did agree, however, that there was insufficient evidence presented in the preliminary setting to move forward on a burglary charge.
While it was reasonably established by way of testimony that Torres illegally entered the couple’s home, Andrews pointed out to the court that the officers had not established Torres’ alleged intent to steal anything from the house.
The judge said there was sufficient evidence to hold Torres to answer on four counts: attempted murder, cruelty to elders, kidnapping and false imprisonment with violence.
Torres will be arraigned prior to trial setting on Feb. 24 at 1:30 p.m.