Genaro Samano Villanueva, the 16-year-old youth charged with murdering actor David Huffman, has a history of using screwdrivers to break into cars, witnesses testified Thursday during a pretrial hearing in Juvenile Court.
Witnesses said Villanueva had been using screwdrivers to break into cars months before Huffman was stabbed to death with a screwdriver-like object while chasing someone who broke into a recreational vehicle in Balboa Park.
Prosecuting attorney Harry M. Elias presented the witnesses before Judge Napoleon Jones Jr. during a hearing to determine whether Villanueva will be tried as an adult or juvenile. Defense attorney W. Allan Williams said he will present his case to the judge on June 7.
The judge, fearing pretrial publicity would hurt Villanueva’s chances of a fair trial, closed parts of the hearing and put a gag order on witnesses and court officials.
San Diego Police Officer Wesley Breedlove testified that he questioned Villanueva on Dec. 31 after observing the youth carrying a large box on India Street.
Breedlove said the box contained a television that Villanueva admitted taking from a car. The youth was never tried in the case, however, because no victim was found, Breedlove said.
Another witness said he chased and caught Villanueva on Feb. 1 after observing the youth breaking into a car at San Diego Community College. Elvin Pouncey, a peace officer at the college, testified that after he arrested Villanueva, he went back to the car and found a screwdriver nearby.
Two other men testified that on the morning of Feb. 27--the day Huffman was killed--they observed Villanueva using a screwdriver to break into a van. They gave chase and caught the youth a few blocks later.
They notified police, who found a screwdriver in Villanueva’s back pocket. A police officer testified that he took Villanueva to San Diego High School later that day, where school officials told the youth to go to class. However, school records show that Villanueva never went to class as instructed.
Jack Beamer, a resident of Edmonton, Canada, said that about 11:30 a.m. that day, he and his wife went to their car in Balboa Park and noticed that someone was inside a recreational vehicle that belonged to the Beamers’ in-laws, who had gone into an exhibit in the park.
Upon closer examination, the Beamers saw a man in the vehicle who they described as a clean-shaven Latino in his 20s; 5 feet, 6 inches to 5 feet, 8 inches tall; with black hair and a generally well-groomed appearance.
The unidentified man jumped from the vehicle and ran across the parking lot, Beamer testified. Huffman, who was sitting in a van directly behind the recreational vehicle, used the van to chase the fleeing man.
At some point, Huffman stopped the van and chased the suspect on foot into Palm Canyon. Beamer testified that he later went to Huffman’s parked van and waited for almost an hour for Huffman to return.
When Huffman never returned from the canyon, Beamer and his family left Balboa Park, he said. Huffman’s body was found in the canyon later by a group of schoolchildren. A coroner’s deputy testified that Huffman was stabbed five times with a screwdriver-like object.
Beamer testified Thursday that he remembered what the suspect looked like, but when he was asked if he saw the unidentified man sitting in the courtroom, Beamer replied “yes” then pointed to Villanueva’s older brother, Mario. Genaro Villanueva was sitting at a table with his attorney.
Elias said he was not surprised that Beamer was not able to identify Villanueva because he had been told not to look at any pictures of the boy.
“I think if you look at all the brothers there is a remarkable similarity among them,” Elias said. “I’m not worried about it.”