A string of law enforcement officers testified Monday in the six-defendant trial in Santa Maria, as their attorneys continued to focus on inconsistencies in civilian witnesses’ statements regarding the gang-related torture-murder of Anthony Ibarra.
Members of the Santa Maria Police Department along with investigators from the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office and Sheriff’s Department took turns on the witness stand in the Santa Maria Juvenile Court. The trial is being held at the juvenile court facility to accommodate the large number of participants.
Under questioning from Senior Deputy District Attorney Ann Bramsen, the law enforcement members talked about gang culture, cell phone forensics and their individual roles in various aspects of the investigation, as defense attorneys tried to poke holes in evidence seemingly linking the six men to various aspects of the case.
Ibarra, 28, was killed March 17, 2013, in a house on West Donovan Road after a brutal attack, reportedly due to drug debts. His body was later found in a U-Haul truck parked on an Orcutt street.
Detective Herminio Rodriguez spent the most time on the stand Monday, answering questions about his three interviews with Robert Stan Sosa, a defendant who became a key prosecution witness.
Many of the statements made to Rodriguez match the testimony given by Sosa during the trial.
Rodriguez said Sosa told him that “when he walked into the purple room, he could see Anthony Ibarra lying dead, facing up,” Hernandez said.
Sosa later told the detective about reporting the victim’s death to defendant Ramon Maldonado, the man known as Crazy Ray and the alleged shot caller for the gang.
“He said he told Crazy Ray he found Anthony Ibarra dead,” Rodriguez said. “He said Ramon laughed.”
Sosa also reportedly told the detective that another defendant, Santos Sauceda, said “the body had been moved out of the residence and it was taken care of,” Rodriguez testified.
Under cross examination, defense attorney Michael Scott, who represents Ramon Maldonado, asked the police officer about a bloody machete allegedly used in the attack and given to Sosa to hide.
But Hernandez said efforts to locate the machete, supposedly stashed under a shed behind a residence on Monroe Street, weren’t successful.
Both Scott and defense attorney Addison Steele, who represents Anthony “AJ” Solis, questioned the detective about Sosa’s claims regarding the assault that didn’t match injuries found on the victim’s body during the autopsy.
“It’s inconsistent with what the pathologist found, right?” Steele asked, as the detective answered affirmatively.
In earlier testimony Monday, Santa Maria Detective Trevor Hutton told of seeing a white board with the word “Tuffy” written on it during one search he conducted.
Sauceda’s attorney, Frederick Foss, asked if the police officer knew of a gang member called Tuffy, before getting the detective to admit his client’s moniker is Lil Tuffy.
Other testimony centered on cell phones seized and records collected during the investigation. The prosecutor has shown assorted links between those involved in the case through cell phone calls and text messages.
Detective Michael Parker made a brief appearance and is set to return to the witness stand later.
Parker began sharing about gang culture where graffiti plays a big role — but also assists police investigators monitoring gang activity in a community. Santa Maria, in recent years, has seen an “explosion” in the amount of gang-related graffiti, he said.
Social media is a relatively new, and incredibly useful, tool for monitoring gang activity.
“The things we’re getting from it — it’s amazing what they all write,” Parker said, adding that photographs also are valuable evidence during investigations.
The day started with a girlfriend of a defendant who under questioning from defense attorney Tom Allen, who represent Reyes “Pumpkin” Gonzales, said that she had never head the victim’s name before “all this happened.”
Steele read from the woman’s earlier statement regarding his client: “AJ couldn’t hurt a fly. That’s not AJ’s nature.”
“Were those your words?” Steele asked her.
“They were,” she responded.
Other defendants in the trial include Ramon Maldonado’s father, David, who is known as Pops and is represented by David Bixby, and Jason Castillo, who is represented by Adrian Andrade.
Also charged in the case is Ramon Maldonado Jr., the son of Ramon Maldonado and grandson of David Maldonado.
Sosa and three other defendants — Pedro Torres Jr., Carmen Cardenas and Verenisa Aviles — accepted plea deals.