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Trial Begins For Man Accused of Killing Brother Near Lompoc in 2016

Former Marine Arturo Herrera is charged with murder after younger brother Enrique Herrera, also a veteran, was brutally attacked on bed

Arturo Herrera Click to view larger
Arturo Herrera

A Lompoc Valley man allegedly killed his brother after watching violent videos online in 2016.

That's what Santa Barbara County Superior Court jurors were told Thursday before a defense attorney claimed that someone else killed Enrique Herrera. 

Jurors heard opening statements from both sides in the trial of Arturo Herrera, 31, who faces a murder charge with an enhancement for use of a deadly or dangerous weapon.

He is accused of brutally beating his younger brother, Enrique Herrera, 28, in the home they lived in with their mother on Hillside Ranch west of Lompoc on July 4, 2016.

Summoned to the house by Arturo Herrera’s 911 call, a county sheriff’s deputy found Enrique Herrera on his bed, with a towel over the body as blood spatters dotted the wall and curtains. 

A forensic pathologist will testify the first blow incapacitated Enrique Herrera, who died from blunt-force trauma, Deputy District Attorney Brandon Jebens said. 

“With no defensive wounds, he did not respond after the first blow,” Jebens said. “There are literally seven to 15 blows on his head.”

Authorities believe the killing occurred in the three hours after the men’s mother left for work and before the 9-1-1 call, a period that also showed no activity on Arturo Herrera’s cellphone. 

In an interview with detectives, the defendant said he slept from 1 a.m. to noon, waking when the dogs were barking.

However, a review of Arturo Herrera’s cellphone activity showed he watched videos of violent attacks and graphic killings from an online site during the night.

Jebens said he would introduce the violent videos to show the defendant walked into Enrique Herrera’s bedroom “not to injure him or maim him or cripple him.”

“He intended to kill his brother,” Jebens said. “Two, this was thought about and planned when he decided to walk into his brother’s room and kill him. And three, this was not an accident.”

The weapon used in the killing has not been found despite dive teams checking a pond and water tower on the property, a police dog tracking scents, a methodical search of the land and digging of nearby property.

Defense attorney Sydney Bennett said an expert will testify about DNA, not belonging to either Enrique or Arturo Herrera, found on a towel.

“He found a third person’s DNA,” Bennett said. “DNA that belongs to the real killer.”

Some DNA samples were destroyed after what Jebens called “a lab accident,” and Bennett said were mishandled.

The trial also will include testimony from a jail snitch’s talk with Arturo Herrera who admitted committing his crime alone.

But Bennett warned jurors the inmate was a high-ranking gang member who worked as a snitch to get a lighter sentence. 

"He’s a master manipulator,” Bennett said, alleging the man’s role with the gang involved extorting money from people in Santa Maria.

The defense attorney also said the defendant watched the violent videos “out of boredom and curiosity.”

The attorneys also gave conflicting versions of the relationship between the Herrera brothers, the youngest of five siblings. 

Arturo Herrera, a Lompoc High School graduate who spent eight years in the Marines Corps, reached the rank of sergeant while earning several medals, his attorney said.

After his military service, he went to Hancock College and later transferred to Cal State, Long Beach, earning a bachelor of science degree.

Bennett claimed Enrique Herrera returned home after a stint in the Marines, suffered from alcohol and substance problems, and later was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder

“The evidence may not show, and we may not ever know, who really killed Arturo’s brother, but nobody wants to know the truth, nobody wants to know who killed Enrique more than his brother, Arturo Herrera,” Bennett said.

The first witness is scheduled to begin testifying on Friday in Judge Gustavo Lavayen's courtroom for the trial expected to last into September.

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 Fac

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