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Jury Begins Deliberating in Santa Maria Torture-Murder Trial

After more than 10 weeks of testimony, jurors now will decide verdicts against the six men charged in the 2013 death of Anthony Ibarra

Defense attorneys Addison Steele, left, and David Bixby talk during the trial for six men charged with the death of Anthony Ibarra in Santa Maria two years ago.
Defense attorneys Addison Steele, left, and David Bixby talk during the trial for six men charged with the death of Anthony Ibarra in Santa Maria two years ago. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

After four months, including more than 10 weeks of testimony, a Santa Maria jury on Tuesday began deliberating the fate of six men charged with killing Anthony Ibarra two years ago.

For more than two hours Tuesday morning, Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rick Brown read the panel the jury instructions for considering the case against the defendants.

The six men, Ramon Maldonado, David Maldonado, Jason Castillo, Anthony Solis, Santos Sauceda and Reyes Gonzales, are charged with murder for the death of Ibarra. They also face a number of special allegations including lying in wait, felony murder, kidnapping and two for gang involvement. Additionally, all but David Maldonado face a special allegation of torture.

Ramon Maldonado also is charged with two counts of witness intimidation.

The 28-year-old was killed in a house on West Donovan Road on March 17, 2013. His body was found several days later in U-Haul rental truck found parked on an Orcutt street.

Prosecutors contend Ibarra was killed due to drug debts owed to a gang. 

“You must decide what the facts are,” Brown told the jury while instructing them about the laws that apply to this case.

Jury selection began Nov. 17 and included eight panels of individuals, or 1,251 people, before the 12 members and six alternates were selected.

The judge noted that trial included more than 600 exhibits plus 38 witnesses.

Deliberations continued until midafternoon, and the panel won’t meet Wednesday, a previously planned dark day for the trial.

Six men stand trial for the death of Anthony Ibarra. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

“We need to follow the same schedule we’ve been following,” Brown said.

The murder trial has been held from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., a schedule that allowed juvenile cases to occur in the afternoon. 

The judge also ordered the attorneys to remain within a 20-minute drive so they are closeby if the jury has a question, asks for testimony to be read or reaches a verdict.

Before the judge began reading jury instructions, he allowed two attorneys — Senior Deputy District Attorney Ann Bramsen and Michael Scott on behalf of the defense team —  a few minutes each to argue one point of law.

Scott said the defense contended that the six men's attack of Ibarra had ended and that the man had reached a position of safety since he allegedly had put on another pair of boxers.  The defense attorneys argued in the trial that someone other than the six men delivered the fatal blows to Ibarra after the defendants had left the house.

But Bramsen said Ibarra never reached a safe place and noted that several of the defendants were involved in removing Ibarra's body from the house. Additionally, she said it wasn't reasonable that one of the men defense attorneys tried to say murdered Ibarra would have been sent to clean up blood in the house.

The case landed in the jury’s hands after five days of closing arguments.

Because of the large number of participants, the trial is taking place in the Santa Maria Juvenile Court, which was specially renovated for this case. 

If found guilty, the men face sentences of life without parole. 

Also Tuesday, at the main court complex in Santa Maria, the sentencing of Robert Sosa was postponed until June 11. A year ago, Sosa pleaded guilty to kidnapping with a gang enhancement, and is expected to receive 15 years in state prison. Sosa testified for the prosecution.

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.

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