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Wednesday, January 23 , 2019, 1:16 pm | Fair 61º


Witness Recounts Torture, Murder of Anthony Ibarra

With Anthony Ibarra severely injured from two separate gang-related assaults inside a house in northwest Santa Maria, one of the alleged attackers later walked out of a back room, blood on his face and arms, and said, “It’s done.”

That was part of the testimony Tuesday from a man who lived with his sister at the rented house where 28-year-old Ibarra was tortured and murdered on March 17, 2013, allegedly because he had failed to pay his debts from selling drugs.

Six men are on trial for the death of Ibarra, who was attacked in the house in the 1100 block West Donovan Road.

Ibarra's naked body was later found in rented U-Haul truck parked on a residential street in Orcutt.

Angel Escobar took the witness stand Tuesday, on the fifth day since opening statements occurred last week. Escobar is an admitted methamphetamine user, like his sister and many others in the case.

Before Ibarra showed up at the house March 17, lured there on the pretense of selling drugs to the residents, the man considered the shot-caller, Ramon Maldonado, complained that Ibarra owed money and called him “a piece of s***,” Escobar said. 

In addition to Maldonado, known as Crazy Ray, the other five defendants now on trial are his father, David Maldonado, Reyes Gonzalez, Santos Sauceda, Anthony Solis and Jason Castillo. 

They are charged with first-degree murder in addition to lying in wait, kidnap, torture and gang involvement, in addition to a special allegation of being involved in a crime for the benefit of criminal street gang.

Ramon Maldonado

Ramon Maldonado, 37, also faces two counts of witness intimidation.

Ibarra’s arrival at the house was quickly followed by an assault in the entryway involving a group of men, some of whom wore black cotton gloves over blue latex gloves. 

As the assault continued, the victim yelled in pain and begged, “Let me explain,” Escobar testified.

The attack then moved to the back bedroom, he said.

“They were just surrounding him like a mob,” Escobar said. 

“How did you know Anthony was being hit?” Senior Deputy District Attorney Ann Bramsen asked.

“I could hear it,” Escobar said, recalling Ibarra’s cries of pain during the violent attacks.

Escobar testified he was told to provide a plastic bag for Ibarra’s clothes, which he was to burn in the backyard.

But before he could ignite the items, one of the defendants asked for the bag back, apparently to check the clothes for drugs or cash.

When Escobar re-entered the house, he recalled seeing one of the defendants mopping the floor, including in the entryway where Ibarra initially was assaulted. Another defendant entered the kitchen to retrieve a knife.

Anthony Ibarra

After a brief trip for food, beer and cigarettes, Escobar recalled overhearing talk about Ibarra feeling like he was about to pass out, and conversation about putting him in the shower.

Escobar testified that when he next saw Castillo, he came out “all bloody.”

“What did he say at that point?” Bramsen asked.

“It’s done,” the witness answered, adding that the suspects talked about how to handle "it."

Later that night, Escobar testified, he left the house, tossing a bag one of the defendants had handed him into the bushes in the front yard. He later denied looking in the bag.

He said he didn’t notify authorities due to concerns for his sister’s safety and uncertainty about her whereabouts.

Escobar said he never saw Ibarra alive again.

“I assumed he was dead because he never came out of that back room,” Escobar said.

Like his sister, Escobar has been placed in the California Witness Protection and Relocation Program, but also admitted under cross examination that he returned to Santa Maria on his own for two weeks.

While they testified as Jane and John Doe to the grand jury, both he and his sister are being referred to by name in the courtroom where the defendants’ family and friends are sitting in the audience.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Michael Scott, Escobar said he told police he would not talk until authorities removed warrants for his arrest and a no-contact order involving the mother of his child and a woman involved in his domestic violence case.

The day began with his sister, Marissa Escobar, still on the witness stand, undergoing re-cross examination from David Bixby, continuing defense attorneys’ efforts to spotlight the inconsistencies in her testimony.

“Isn’t it true that you’ve lied?” Bixby asked.

“Yes,” she said.

Later defense attorney Adrian Andrade asked if she had told the grand jury she had smoked methamphetamine before testifying. She said she hadn’t admitted it during her appearance before the panel in May 2013.

The Santa Barbara County Superior Court trial before Judge Rick Brown and a jury of 12 plus six alternates will resume at 8 a.m. Wednesday in Santa Maria Juvenile Court, where it’s being held due to the large number of defendants.

In addition to the six men now on trial, Ramon Maldonado’s son, 16-year-old Ramon Maldonado Jr., will be tried separately as an adult for Ibarra’s death.

Four other defendants — Pedro Torres Jr., Carmen Cardenas, Verenisa Aviles and Robert Stan Sosa — accepted pleas in the case and are expected to testify 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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