A boy 3-1/2 months old was the youngest homicide victim in San Diego County during the first half of 2007. The oldest was a 75-year-old woman. Both were killed by family members, allegedly, the infant by its father and the woman by her daughter.There were 53 homicide cases between January 1 and June 30, 2006. There were 66 during the same period of this year. Some cases have received high-profile media attention.
One is the gruesome case of Allen Burton Hawes, whose body parts were found scattered all over San Diego County. Another is the killing of professional surfer Emery Kauanui in La Jolla. Some cases, such as one at Parkway Plaza on May 9, deemed at first to be suspicious deaths, were later classified as suicides.
Officer-involved shootings resulting in a death are investigated by the district attorney. Those that are determined to be justifiable are not statistically included in annual reports of area homicides. The February 10, 2007, shooting of 17-year-old Noe Rojas during a traffic stop resulted from officers observing what appeared to be a "blue steel revolver with a red tip sitting on the shelf near the glove box." It turned out to be a toy gun. The shooting was found to be justified and is not labeled as a homicide.
Also deemed defensible was the killing of a 22-year-old Cardiff man, who was mowed down by a citizen's car in Pacific Beach on March 17. In another case, although Michael Ray Estrada claims it was self-defense when he shot Victor Arreola in Fallbrook on January 7, 2007, he faces trial for murder. This latter case is the second on this list of homicides committed in San Diego County in the first half of 2007. Included is each homicide's investigation status; this further information is provided by updated press releases from the detectives of the respective homicide units in various area law enforcement agencies and their public-information and media-relations officers.
A MAN DIES IN A MOTEL ROOM
230 Via de San Ysidro, San Diego
January 7, 12:31 p.m.
At 12:05 p.m., officers were dispatched to the Economy Inn. Multiple gunshots had been heard. In a second-floor room, they found a male suffering from a gunshot wound. Paramedics attempted lifesaving measures, but the victim was pronounced dead at 12:31 p.m. A vehicle that had left the scene was located in the 1600 block of Fresno Avenue in Chula Vista. In a follow-up at a residence in the 1100 block of Del Mar Avenue, officers received information that a second shooting victim had been transported to Tijuana for medical care.
SDPD Homicide has identified the victim as David Ramos, 22. They say they are still working on the case.
SELF-DEFENSE OR MURDER?
713 East Elder Street, Fallbrook
January 7, 5:59 p.m.
Sheriff's Department received a call from an area resident about a shooting at the Fallbrook Village Apartments. Deputies arrived at that location at 6:04 p.m. and found a Hispanic male adult lying in front of the apartment complex. Paramedics attempted to give first aid to the victim but were unable to revive him, and he was pronounced dead at the scene. Initial reports indicate that the victim was involved in an altercation with at least one other male immediately preceding the shooting.
Sheriff's Homicide Unit identified the victim as Victor Arreola, 32. Victor was employed as an assembly worker at the water-treatment product manufacturer R.O. UltraTec USA in Fallbrook. His brother Ceasar Arreola-Pablo told police that he was watching TV while his brother left the apartment with a load of laundry. He heard shots fired, ran out, and saw his brother lying on a sidewalk, holding his chest and saying, "They screwed me." Ceasar stated that he saw two men; one used a silver-colored gun to fire again at Victor before they ran away.
An arrest warrant was issued for Michael Ray Robledo, 26. He was arrested January 16, 2007. San Diego Regional Fugitive Task Force spotted Robledo riding in a vehicle near the 1000 block of Old Stage Road. Once the car stopped, Robledo took off on foot. He was captured in the 1000 block of Main Street. He was charged with one count of murder and held on $1 million bail. It was learned his true surname is Estrada, not Robledo. He was arraigned on May 30, 2007, and pleaded not guilty for reasons of self-defense. Deputy Public Defender Kathleen Cannon's position is that this shooting was in self-defense, because the victim was chasing Estrada with a baseball bat: her client was not only defending himself but also trying to protect other residents of the East Elder Street apartment complex. "A bat is deadly force, and it can be met with deadly force," Cannon told the court. "I don't think the evidence establishes an intent to kill."
Deputy District Attorney Debra Daley did not agree that the self-defense criteria had been met, because Arreloa had held the bat well out of striking distance. Daley said, "Had he swung the bat, it wouldn't have made a difference, because they were 28 feet apart."
Deputy District Attorney David Greenberg says that a third of the 15 murder cases pending in North County involve self-defense claims. "Acquittals aren't very often," Greenberg states. "Hopefully, we've ferreted those out [in advance] so they didn't get tried."
Judge Joan Weber ordered Michael Ray Estrada to stand trial for murder. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
WOMAN MYSTERIOUSLY DIES ON FREEWAY
State Route 94 and Euclid Avenue, Emerald Hills
January 10, 5:30 p.m.
Filirican Torres, 24, was hit by a big rig and several other vehicles on the freeway. California Highway Patrol investigators at first considered this a pedestrian accident, with Torres at fault, until witnesses came forward and stated that they had seen her falling to the roadway from a moving vehicle before she was hit by the other vehicles. The vehicle from which Torres fell (or was pushed) is described as a "white, boxy station wagon, similar to the Toyota Scion." Since the van did not stop, and no report was called in, Lt. Kevin Rooney of the SDPD Homicide Units says this case is suspicious and could be a homicide.