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Trial Delayed for Man Accused of Murdering 15-Year-Old Boy in Santa Maria

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Israel Gaspar Cruz

The Santa Barbara County Superior Court trial date for a Santa Maria man charged in connection with a fatal stabbing of a 15-year-old boy in January 2016 has been delayed at least seven weeks. 

Israel Gaspar Cruz, 19 years old when he was taken into custody, was the only adult among six arrested following the Jan. 25, 2016, slaying of Marcos Arce Ramos Pena on the 1600 block of Donovan Road near Suey Road after a confrontation between two groups. 

Pena was a student at Pioneer Valley High School, which is a few blocks from where the stabbing occurred.

In addition to a murder charge, Cruz, whose attorney is Lea Villegas, is accused of wielding the knife during the altercation and being part of a criminal street gang.

Near the end of the preliminary hearing in February 2017, Deputy District Attorney Mai Trieu noted the victim had 25 stab wounds, which were listed as his cause of death.

During a hearing Wednesday before Judge James Iwasko, a planned June 11 start for the jury trial was vacated. 

Instead, a readiness-and-settlement conference will occur June 13, followed by a trial confirmation conference July 25. 

Under the new schedule, the jury trial is expected to start on July 30.

The remaining five defendants, all under 18 years old at the time of their arrests but charged as adults, pleaded guilty to charges related to the fatal stabbing.

 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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