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Testimony Under Way in Trial of 2 Men in 2013 Santa Barbara Homicide Case

Issac Efren Jimenez and Joseph Michael Castro face murder charges in alleged gang slaying of Kelly Mitchell Hunt, 21, of Ventura

Kelly Mitchell Hunt, 21, of Ventura is loaded into an ambulance on Feb. 19, 2013, after being gunned down on Olive Street in Santa Barbara. He died later at Cottage Hospital
Kelly Mitchell Hunt, 21, of Ventura is loaded into an ambulance on Feb. 19, 2013, after being gunned down on Olive Street in Santa Barbara. He died later at Cottage Hospital (John Palminteri / KEYT News photo)
Issac Efren Jimenez
Issac Efren Jimenez

Trial began this week for two men accused of murder in the death of a 21-year-old man who was shot multiple times on a Santa Barbara street almost three years ago.

Kelly Mitchell Hunt, 21, of Ventura was gunned down on the 1000 block of Olive Street on Feb. 19, 2013, and died later at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

On trial in his slaying are Issac Efren Jimenez of Ventura and Joseph Michael Castro of Santa Barbara, who were arrested in August 2013.

Castro was booked into Santa Barbara County Jail on charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and participation in a criminal street gang with bail set at $1.1 million.

Jimenez was arrested in Longview, Wash., by personnel from the Longview Police Department, assisted by Santa Barbara police detectives.

”Castro and Jimenez are considered the primary suspects in the conspiracy to murder and murder of Kelly Hunt," Santa Barbara police Sgt. Riley Harwood told Noozhawk in 2013, but added that the investigation was ongoing at the time.

Santa Barbara detectives obtained a $1.1 million arrest warrant for Jimenez, and his apartment was searched, Harwood said.

Nine days after Hunt's killing, Jimenez was interviewed and photographed by detectives, but left the Santa Barbara area shortly afterward, Harwood said.

Joseph Michael Castro
Joseph Michael Castro

Police said that Jimenez is an associate of the same Santa Barbara area gang of which Castro is a member.

On Thursday, both men were in court with their attorneys, public defender Michael Hanley, who is representing Castro, and Ilan Funke-Bilu for Jimenez.

Prosecutor Kimberly Siegel called a number of witnesses to the stand, including several first responders who arrived on the scene and tried to revive Hunt after he was shot, but to no avail.

One of the first to testify was Michael Weidl, who was at his Olive Street home on Feb. 19 when he heard about four quickly fired gunshots outside.

Weidl heard the shots at about 7:15 p.m., looked out his apartment window, and saw “what appeared to be a body laying in the driveway” across the street between 1016 and 1012 Olive St.

Siegel asked if he saw any other people, and Weidl said he saw two people approach from across the street.

“I don’t recall their clothing, I just knew they were two younger males in their late teens, early 20s, who approached the body, looked at it, and returned the direction they came,” he said. “They left in a hurry.”

Kelly Mitchell Hunt
Kelly Mitchell Hunt

Weidl and other bystanders provided a statement to police that night, stating that the men appeared to be Hispanic, and that one appeared to be wearing a white t-shirt, but Weidl added later that he wasn’t able to get a look at their faces.

He called 9-1-1, and the dispatcher asked him to go outside, where a UPS driver was with Hunt at the time.

Weidl said Hunt was on his back with his eyes partially open, and the UPS driver was trying to revive the young man.

“I don’t believe there was any response when we were there,” Weidl recalled.

Siegel showed a photo of the crime scene, where evidence markers dotted the sidewalk and planter where Hunt’s body was found. A bicycle was also pictured in the background. 

Santa Barbara city firefighters also testified Thursday, including Alex Kargbo, who was on duty at the time of the shooting and was one of the first medical responders at the scene.

The firefighter began chest compressions on Hunt, who did not have a pulse at the time.   

After cutting open Hunt’s shirt with scissors, Kargbo noticed two bullet holes in his chest and one in his left arm. 

Another witness called to the stand was Jess Garcia, the UPS delivery driver who had been working on the corner of Olive and Figueroa when he heard gunshots, a whistling sound that came from the same direction, and saw two men and a woman leaving the area near Hunt’s body.

Garcia recalled trying to comfort Hunt while he lay on the ground until medical personnel arrived.

Siegel showed a close-up photo of Hunt on the ground, with the arms of several medical personnel in the shot trying to revive him.

Garcia confirmed that the man pictured was whom he had seen on the curb that day.

Trial in the case will continue on Friday.

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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