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Santa Maria Defendants Ordered to Trial for Fatal 2016 Gang-Related Stabbing

A Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge decided Tuesday that enough evidence exists for two men to stand trial for a gang-related fatal stabbing in Santa Maria last year.

Judge John McGregor made his ruling at the end of the preliminary hearing that started Monday for Pedro Mora, 20, and Abdu Delgado, 24. 

The two defendants were arrested in connection with the fatal stabbing of a rival gang member,  Luis Alberto Castaneira, 18, of Santa Maria, on Sept. 10, 2016, on the 900 block of West McElhaney Avenue.

The judge determined sufficient evidence existed to hold Mora, alleged to have wielded the knife, to answer on the charges, based in part on the statement of a witness who claimed the defendant had said,“I think I stuck him good.”

The witness did not testify in the preliminary hearing but told police about the statement.

Preliminary hearings determine if enough evidence exists for defendants to stand trial, and typically involve few witnesses and limited defense. 

As the driver of the vehicle connected to the incident, Delgado’s actions provided reasonable cause to hold him to answer to the charges after the preliminary hearing, the judge added.

The defendants belong to the West Park gang while the victim was part of the North West gang.

Mora and Delgado were among four people in a vehicle driving on McElhaney when a rival gang member standing outside a residence made some motion to them. 

Supervising Deputy District Attorney Stephen Foley said Delgado had choices at several crossroads, including when he chose to turn onto McElhaney to pass a rival gang member’s residence at the urging of a passenger, and again when he made a U-turn and stopped the car.

“The context of this car ride cannot be overstated,” Foley said, adding that the defendant aided and abetted the crime before, during and after when he drove to Nipomo to dispose of the murder weapon.

Mora is accused of wielding the knife that fatally wounded the victim, but his attorney, Adrienne Harbottle, said no one saw her client with the weapon. 

“We don’t know if Mr. Castaneira had the knife,” she said. 

Mora’s and Delgado’s attorneys contend the stabbing occurred in self defense, and that the victim had a high amount of methamphetamine in his system, a level they said made him aggressively violent.

Delgado’s attorney, David Bixby, also argued his client should not face charges because he remained in the vehicle.

Both men face a murder charge plus an allegation the crime was committed for the benefit of a criminal street gang. Mora also faces an addition allegation for using a deadly weapon to commit the crime.

The defendants, who both remain in custody of the Santa Barbara County Jail, were ordered to return to court Oct. 19 for arraignment.

Two others in the car also were arrested.

In August, Daniel Montelongo, 18, pleaded no contest to being an accessory, with sentencing set for Nov. 7. He was represented by Adrian Galvan.

A fourth person arrested, 16-year-old Fernando Hernandez Garibaby, is represented by William Redell.

The teen pleaded no contest to assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury and admitted the gang enhancement. His sentencing is set for Oct. 11.

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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