COURT WATCH: New DNA Evidence Sparks Opening Arguments at Beginning of Retrial in Woodland Murder Case 

By Sofia Hosseinzadeh, Gabriel Johnson and Madison Whittemore

WOODLAND, CA – Opening arguments in the retrial of a 2016 murder case were heard on Monday in Yolo County Superior Court for Justin Gonzalez, who is being given a second chance to prove his innocence after being charged with second degree murder in 2018.

On Aug. 30, 2016, Ronald Antonio was found stabbed to death on the steps of a trailer home in Casa Del Sol. Shortly after, Woodland Police Officer John Perez arrested two men suspected of committing the murder: Alexis Velazquez and Justin Gonzalez.

Antonio, a resident of Casa Del Sol, encountered a woman who was cut and bleeding named Ruby Aradoz, who asked Antonio for his shirt to tie around her arm. Antonio agreed and gave Aradoz his shirt.

Antonio began to walk back to his trailer to get a new shirt when Aradoz screamed a derogatory insult. After hearing Aradoz yell, Velazquez and Gonzalez allegedly began to chase Antonio, eventually leading to a “chaotic” physical altercation ending in Antonio’s death.

Velazquez was charged with first degree murder for stabbing Antonio and Gonzales was charged with second degree murder for aiding and abetting Velazquez in the 2018 stabbing.

In March of 2022 a Yolo County appellate court ruled that Gonzalez can be retried for his second-degree murder charge after Senate Bills 1437 and 775 permitted the elimination of the natural and probable consequences as a way to prove intent to murder—which is what the original murder charge was based on.

During her opening statement, Deputy District Attorney (DDA) Robin Johnson, leading the prosecution, recounted the events of the night of Aug. 30 as reported by witness testimonies. She asserted that Gonzalez and Velazquez were present at Casa Del Sol which eventually resulted in Gonzalez restraining Antonio while Velazquez stabbed him.

“They were letting everyone in the trailer park know who they were and what they were doing,” DDA Johnson explained.

DDA Johnson relied on the account of the prosecution’s original key eyewitness, Aradoz, whose credibility has since been questioned after Aradoz admitted she was “blackout drunk” when the stabbing of Antonio occurred.

Deputy Public Defender (DPD) Ron Johnson questioned DDA Johnson’s reliance on Aradoz’s witness testimony in Gonzalez’s case.

DPD Johnson argued the testimony of Aradoz cited in DDA Johnson’s opening statement was unreliable due to the witness reportedly being extremely intoxicated during the altercation between Antonio and the accused. He also asserted Aradoz’s testimony changed multiple times under oath regarding where Gonzalez was located during the incident.

“People want to please officers or fulfill a personal interest,” DPD Johnson continued, also adding “she (Aradoz) may have had a motivation to say certain things,” since Aradoz was originally a defendant in the case.

It is “striking to me how incredibly great an example this is of a case where eyewitness fallibility causes issues and causes the People to jump to conclusions,” DPD Johnson asserted, making a clear effort to explain to the jurors how Aradoz’s testimony should have no credibility.

One way in which eyewitness testimony cannot be trusted, according to DPD Johnson, are the movements of Gonzalez and Valazquez before the homicide.

DPD Johnson claims, citing video camera footage from the night of the homicide, Gonzalez was not even running alongside Velazquez as Velazquez pursued Antonio.

“You would think that Mr. Gonzalez and Mr. Velazquez were lockstep and running towards someone, but of course the video you are going to see shows otherwise. It shows Mr. Gonzalez fully 15 seconds behind or 14 seconds behind Mr. Velazquez when they’re running across toward where the homicide happens,” said DPD Johnson.

DPD Johnson also brought to light new DNA evidence that may point toward Gonzalez’s innocence.

Originally in 2016, the Dept. of Justice tested clothing (shorts and a shirt) from Velazquez which tested positive for Antonio’s blood.

But, in 2023, Gonzalez’s shirt was tested for trace DNA evidence that could have been left on his shirt from the sweat of Antonio. The DOJ found no evidence of Antonio’s DNA on Gonzalez’s shirt.

“If Mr. Gonzalez was holding onto Antonio…you would have expected to see some blood evidence on Gonzalez’s shirt, clothes,” DPD Johnson explained, questioning DDA Johnson’s assertion about how Gonzalez could have been holding onto Antonio during the stabbing but had no blood or trace evidence on his clothes.

DPD Johnson continued his argument by claiming there should be some DNA evidence on Gonzalez if he had been involved.

“Mr. Antonio is bare shirted at this time. He’s been running. He’s excited … It’s Aug. 30. It’s very reasonable that there is sweat. If Mr. Gonzalez had been involved in grabbing and struggling with Mr. Antonio, you would expect to see some amount of DNA on that shirt,” DPD Johnson told the jury.

About The Author

Gabriel Johnson is a system impacted first generation University & Law School student who graduated from McGeorge in 2022 With Distinction. Gabriel is a long-term vegetarian who hopes to make a difference fighting for both Human and Animal rights.

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