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Man Accused In 1993 Shooting Deaths Of Sailors To Be Tried As Adult

One of two men charged in the shooting deaths of two San Diego-based sailors in Otay Mesa nearly 18 years ago when he was 17 years old is unfit for prosecution in Juvenile Court and will be tried as an adult, a judge ruled today.Edward Jesus Elias, now 35, is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday on two counts of murder, said Judge Amalia Meza.

Elias and Leopoldo Castro Chavez II are charged in the deaths of 20-year-old Eugene "Cliff" Ellis and 23-year-old Keith Combs, who were both stationed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Constellation. The sailors' bullet-riddled bodies were discovered in a field the morning of Sept. 25, 1993, in an area east of Palm Avenue and Interstate 805, where they had gone to have a bonfire and drink beer with other Navy personnel.

Each victim was shot twice in the head, said Deputy District Attorney Andrea Freshwater. Ten days after the slayings, Chavez was caught driving Ellis' stolen pickup in Tijuana and was arrested. Detectives questioned Chavez but were unable to connect him to the murders, police said.

Though police recovered genetic evidence apparently belonging to the killer at the murder scene, the original investigation would up at a dead end. In November 2009, San Diego police laboratory personnel notified the department's cold-case investigators of a potential match between the previously unidentified biological evidence recovered from the site of the slayings and Chavez's profile in a national database. He was arrested in July 2010 at his home in Washington state and eventually extradited to San Diego. Elias was arrested in April. Both defendants face 50 years to life in prison if convicted, Freshwater said. A preliminary hearing for both men is expected to get under way Sept. 13 at the downtown courthouse.

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