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Saturday, January 19 , 2019, 5:14 am | Fair 45º


Men Found Guilty of Murdering Kelly Hunt in 2013 Santa Barbara Gang Slaying

After two days of deliberation, a jury found two men guilty of first-degree murder in the 2013 slaying of a man on Olive Street in Santa Barbara.

Joseph Michael Castro of Santa Barbara and Issac Efren Jimenez of Ventura will both be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the death of Kelly Hunt, a 21-year-old Ventura man, who was shot to death near Santa Barbara High School.

Hunt was gunned down the night of Feb. 19, 2013, in the 1000 block of Olive Street, a block west of the Santa Barbara High campus.

He later died at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

On Wednesday morning around 11 a.m., the jury returned with a verdict finding both Jimenez and Castro guilty of first-degree murder.

They also found the men guilty of special circumstances, lying in wait and committing a crime for street gang purposes.

Jurors found gang allegations true in addition to special allegations that the two men were armed and personally discharged a firearm that lead to the death of Hunt.

Throughout the trial that lasted more than three months, police and prosecutors stated both Castro and Jimenez were involved in a Santa Barbara street gang, the Eastside Krazies, and that Hunt was part of a rival Ventura gang.

The motive for the killing was never explicitly stated, but attorneys have suggested that it could have stemmed from personal disrespect from Hunt, a perception that Hunt was moving into Krazies territory or some other factor.

In her closing statements on Friday, prosecutor Kimberly Siegel told the court that “Kelly Hunt was ambushed and blindsided.”

Hunt was shot four times from behind, and both of the defendants intended to kill Hunt that night, she said.

Castro and Jimenez lured Hunt to a dark street on the premise that the trio were going to steal a car together, Siegel said.

The jury ultimately agreed with Siegel’s assertions and found the men guilty on all counts.

Jimenez will be sentenced on March 7 and Castro’s sentencing will take place on April 5. Both are scheduled for 8:30 a.m. before Judge Brian Hill.

A new case is pending against both men, and involves a separate incident from Feb. 4, 2013, when Castro allegedly shot a gun provided to him by Jimenez into a group of rival gang members, Siegel said.

The incident was testified to during the trial by witnesses and Castro himself admitted the incident while on the stand, Siegel said.

Castro also has a felony case where he was charged with bringing narcotics into the jail, which is pending, authorities said.

Siegel said Hunt’s family and friends were relieved to hear the verdict read on Wednesday morning. 

As police searched for suspects for six months after the murder, “they had no answers to what happened to Kelly Hunt,” she said.

The trial lasted more three months and Siegel hopes some closure came from that as the evidence was presented to the court.

“I’m not sure they have all the answers, but at least they have facts about what happened to him,” she said.

Siegel said Hunt’s mother, Jana Rector, has stated there will never be true closure about the loss of her son.

With the trial at close, however, “at least she can start to heal,” she said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper 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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