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Friend of Murder Defendant Testifies

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A friend of murder defendant Jaime Arias testified Friday that victim Richard Macias Jr. started a fistfight that quickly escalated to a deadly shooting.

Gilbert Villalazo, 20, of Fillmore told jurors he and Arias were drinking beer at the house of Santa Paula resident Annette Chavez on Jan. 3, 1997, when Macias showed up and ordered them to leave.

Macias, 19 at the time, had previously dated Chavez. She was the mother of his 2-year-old child, and Macias apparently went to her house that night to discuss child care.

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When Macias arrived at the door, Chavez ordered Arias, Villalazo and another woman to hide in Chavez’s kitchen while Chavez stepped outside to talk with Macias, Villalazo said.

He told the jury that moments later Macias burst into the house.

“He went straight to us,” Villalazo testified. “He told us to get . . . out.”

Villalazo said he turned away briefly and then saw Macias--whom, he said, he had never met--brawling with the defendant. Villalazo said he tried to pull Arias away, but was hit from behind by another man later identified as Macias’ brother, Jesse Duenas.

Villalazo testified he fought with Duenas, but stopped when he heard gunshots.

When he ran outside, Villalazo said, he saw Arias backing up in a car. He said the defendant yelled “Let’s go!” but Villalazo said he kept running. He said he didn’t see the shooting.

Authorities say Arias fatally shot Macias after pulling a gun during the fight, then shot Duenas as he sped from the scene. Duenas, who was injured, is expected to testify Monday.

Arias, 25, is facing charges of murder, attempted murder, carjacking, robbery and arson. He fled to Mexico and eluded arrest for a year, but was later caught in Riverside County.

Prosecutors are seeking a second-degree murder conviction. Arias’ defense attorney, however, is pushing for manslaughter. He contends that the defendant fired his gun in a panic after being jumped by Macias.

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Arias’ trial is scheduled to resume Monday in Ventura County Superior Court.

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