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Testimony today suggested that two sisters who ear-witnessed a shooting last April now have a strained relationship, because one sister continues her romantic connection with a man charged as “accessory after the fact” in the killing of a third sister.

Ruben Anthony Cepeda, 21, was in court today, accused of murder in the death of Viri Rodriguez, 18. The prosecutor alleges that Cepeda put a gun to the belly of his pregnant girlfriend and killed both her and her four-month-old fetus with a single 9mm shot, in an Escondido apartment.

Older sister Diana Rodriguez, 27, testified today that she dated the alleged “accessory” Jesse Juan Lopez, 22, for more than a year and “Yes, he’s still my boyfriend.”

Jesse Lopez allegedly assisted the shooter by helping him to flee, driving him to the Mexican-American border immediately after the shooting, about 7:24 p.m. April 7, 2012.

Ruben Cepeda and friend Jesse Lopez were reportedly moving into the 2-bedroom apartment all that day, and it was after 7 p.m. when Cepeda and his girlfriend were together in one room while others were elsewhere in the apartment. “And then we just hear a loud noise,” Diana Rodriguez said. She said she rushed into the room and saw Cepeda and her sister Viri standing “face to face,” and then Cepeda lay his wounded girlfriend onto the floor. “I saw her getting paler,” Diana testified. She said Viri tried to speak, but was unable.

The other sister who was at the apartment, named Yemely, testified at a prior hearing for Jesse Lopez. Both sisters have said they heard Cepeda say it was an accident, and apologize to Viri for shooting her.

Yemely said she saw Jesse Lopez take off his shirt and use it to pick up a black handgun that was lying on the floor, before the two men fled in a truck driven by Lopez, according to prosecutor Keith Watanabe.

Diana Rodriguez said her relationship with her sister Yemely is “not that good” now.

Judge Harry Elias ordered Ruben Anthony Cepeda to answer two murder charges plus special gun allegations at the end of the preliminary hearing today, June 26 2012.

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Eva Knott June 26, 2012 @ 5:15 p.m.

Deputy District Attorney Keith Watanabe said that the accused, Ruben Anthony Cepeda, has a strike prior for which he was convicted while still a juvenile. The prosecutor stated that this would "double" any sentence Cepeda might get, if he is eventually convicted of a crime in the current case. Photo of prosecutor at today's hearing by Bob Weatherston. Posted by Eva Knott.


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