Three Oxnard residents accused in the December slaying of a landlord will face separate trials on charges of first-degree murder, a judge ruled Thursday.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Donald C. Glynn withdrew his motion to consolidate the cases, saying he would rather proceed with separate trials than face further delays.
Statements made to investigators by defendants Jose Luis Arreguin, 20; George I. Pena, 23, and Gilbert Martinez, 16, incriminated each other, Glynn said. Under court procedures, those statements could not be used in a consolidated trial, but Glynn had said he was willing to proceed without that evidence if the defendants could be tried in one case.
“It’s a tossup,” the prosecutor said Thursday after the separate trials were scheduled. “For judicial economy, I would have liked to try them together.” However, he said, he did not object to holding separate trials.
Arreguin will face trial May 10, while Martinez will be tried June 1 and Pena on July 12, Ventura County Superior Court Judge Charles R. McGrath ruled. All three face charges of murder and attempted robbery.
A fourth defendant, David Lee Soto, 19, already has pleaded guilty in the case after agreeing to testify against the other three, Glynn said.
The three men and the 16-year-old--who will be tried as an adult--are accused of following Richard Schell, 52, of Santa Barbara around the Oxnard area Dec. 1 as he collected rent from tenants who lived in four apartment buildings he owned.
When Schell parked along C Street in Port Hueneme to do paperwork, the defendants smashed the window of his pickup truck, shot him in the chest, and fled before getting any money, investigators said.
All four are being held without bail in Ventura County Jail. Glynn said he is not seeking the death penalty.