Thursday, January 18 , 2018, 10:15 am | Fair 62º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Arraignment Delayed Again for Defendants In MS-13 Murder Case

A Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge said Friday that the dozen defendants in a case linked to multiple gang-related homicides and attempted homicides in the Santa Maria Valley may enter pleas in February.

The accused, who were indicted in July 2016 by a criminal grand jury, made a brief appearance before Judge John McGregor on Friday before the arraignment hearing was continued again.

The judge and attorneys agreed to tackle other matters, including scheduling dates to submit and rule on motions and more Jan. 19 at a case management conference. The continued arraignment hearing was set for Feb. 16.

Seventeen months ago, a Santa Barbara County criminal grand jury indicted the defendants in the complex case linked to 10 slayings in the Santa Maria area.

Defense attorneys are expected to submit motions attacking the prosecution’s case on a variety of legal issues.

Due to concerns about pre-trial publicity, the judge ordered pre-court filings to be sealed.

A few months earlier, in March 2016, Santa Maria police-led a multi-agency effort, dubbed Operation Matador, that culminated with arrests in Santa Maria, Oxnard, Kern County and Ohio.

The accused now face 50 charges related to the deaths of 10 people and allegations of conspiracy to murder 14 other victims.

Authorities contend the defendants committed the crimes on behalf of MS-13, short for Mara Salvatrucha, a violent international gang.

Two defendants left in the smaller related indictments involving lesser charges also were in a court for a brief hearing.

The judge said he will hear a motion Jan. 12 on defense attorney Gary Dunlap’s request to withdraw from the case.

The defendant, Rafael Castro, privately hired Dunlap after he initially was represented by a court-appointed attorney.

Friday’s hearing occurred the same day President Donald Trump said at the FBI Academy that MS-13 gang members should be thrown out of the country instead of jailed.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.



Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >