Thursday, December 4, 2008
Witnesses to the fatal stabbing of a college student and its aftermath give a horrible portrait of the 19-year-old son of former California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez.
One told police how furious Esteban Nunez and his friends were about getting kicked out of a fraternity party and how they vowed revenge. Another said Nunez declared that he "got one of them" as they left a group of men, including one who said he had just been stabbed.
Others describe Nunez trying to destroy evidence on the banks of the Sacramento River on Oct. 4, the day of the stabbing.
Nunez and three others were scheduled to be arraigned Thursday in San Diego Superior Court two days after they were arrested in Sacramento. Each is charged with one count each of murder, three counts of assault with a deadly weapon and a misdemeanor count of vandalism. They face maximum sentences of life in prison if convicted of murder.
Police have not recovered the knives used to kill Luis Santos, a 22-year-old student at San Diego Mesa College, and injure three others in the driveway of San Diego State University's Peterson Gym, but an arrest warrant affidavit offers several witness accounts.
Santos died at the scene from a stab wound that "sliced through the bottom of his heart," according to the affidavit.
Fabian Nunez, 41, was the longest-serving speaker in California's era of legislative term limits. The Los Angeles Democrat cultivated a close relationship with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that led to their agreement on a landmark law to greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in California.
Fabian Nunez released a statement Wednesday that he had faith in the justice system.
"This is a very difficult and painful experience for every family involved. Maria and I love our children very much," he said. "We are confident our son Esteban will be cleared of the charges he is facing."
Esteban Nunez's attorney, C. Bradley Patton, did not return a telephone call Wednesday. A spokesman for the San Diego County district attorney's office, Paul Levikow, did not know if the other three defendants - Ryan Jett, 22, and Rafael Garcia and Leshanor Thomas, both 19 - had hired attorneys.
No one answered the doors Wednesday at the Sacramento-area addresses listed in court documents for any of the men charged.
Nunez and his friends drove to San Diego to party, according to police and court documents. Investigators said they belong to a "close-knit group of friends who call themselves 'THC' aka 'The Hazard Crew,"' who brandish tattoos with symbols of hazardous materials and flash hand signs.
Nunez and his friends fueled their anger about getting kicked out of the party near San Diego State University with a bottle of Captain Morgan rum and two six-packs of beer at the apartment of Garcia's cousin, Briana Perez, according to court documents.
Perez 34ed the men saying, "Let's go burn down their house" and "Let's show them how we do it in Sac-Town."
A melee followed after they left the apartment, according to the affidavit.
Thomas told investigators that one of the victims said, "I think I got stabbed," and that Esteban Nunez then said, "Yeah, I got one of them."
John Murray, a friend, told investigators that he joined Nunez that day at a Sacramento riverbed frequented by transients. Nunez carried a plastic bag, while Jett had the cup filled with gasoline as they prepared to destroy evidence, according to the affidavit.
"They had a hat and a shirt they burned and they had their knives in a bag," Murray is 34ed saying. "I walked back to my car and said, 'You guys do what you have to do."'