Testimony Over in Restaurateur's Death

Testimony in the murder trial of 38-year-old Camarillo resident Jose Vazquez concluded Friday.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys are scheduled to give their closing arguments Tuesday morning, and jurors are expected to get the case for deliberation later that afternoon.

Vazquez is charged with murder, attempted kidnapping, burglary and other crimes in connection with the deadly shooting of restaurant owner Felipe Arambula. He was shot six times while trying to fight two men who broke into his Ventura home June 13, 1998.

Prosecutors allege the men were sent by Vazquez to kidnap the restaurateur because he owed a $50,000 debt. But Vazquez has denied any involvement in a kidnap scheme.

His attorney, Steven Andrade, has suggested that the two intruders, William David Hampton Jr. and Manuel Vasquez, broke into Arambula's house to rob him of cash the victim often brought home from work.

On Friday, Andrade called his final witnesses, including a police detective who confirmed that Arambula came home that night with about $2,500 in profits from his downtown Ventura restaurant.

Outside the jury's presence, Andrade tried to persuade Superior Court Judge Donald Coleman to let him call a witness who vaguely recalled a statement that Manuel Vasquez may have made about a robbery. But the judge refused.

Andrade later called to the stand a man who works at the Ventura card club owned by the defendant's wife. Mario Govea testified that Hampton and Manuel Vasquez helped in a remodeling project at the club on the day of the slaying and left about 7 p.m.

Prosecutors have tried to show that Jose Vazquez hired the two men to carry out an abduction. Andrade, meanwhile, has tried to distance his client from the crime scene while suggesting that Vazquez's only connection to Hampton and Vasquez was through his wife's business.

Hampton, 20, was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the slaying. During a police interview, he admitted shooting Arambula. In April, he waived a jury trial and agreed to let a judge sentence him based on evidence presented during a preliminary hearing.

Manuel Vasquez, 21, is believed to have fled the country.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World