MODESTO — The Stanislaus County district attorney's office is seeking the death penalty against three of seven men indicted in the shooting deaths of three people last year inside an east Modesto home.
In a continued arraignment hearing Thursday afternoon, Deputy District Attorney Marlisa Ferreira announced that Richard Tyrone Garcia, Armando Osegueda and Joseph Luis Jauriqui will face the death penalty. If convicted, the four other defendants face a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole.
In December, a criminal grand jury indicted Garcia, Armando Osegueda, Jauriqui, Ricky Javier Madrigal, Robert Palomino, Juan Jose Nila and Jose Osegueda Jr. They have been charged with three counts of premeditated murder, first-degree burglary and participating in a criminal street gang.
The defendants are accused of participating in the March 3, 2012, killings of 16-year-old David Siebels, 19-year-old Alyxandria Tellez and 31-year-old Edward Joseph Reinig in a home on McClure Road across from Creekside Golf Course.
The slayings, authorities have said, are connected to the torture of a 19-year-old woman about a month before the murders. That woman later was the only survivor in the attack in the McClure Road home.
"The underlying facts of this crime and the special circumstances which have been alleged clearly make all of the defendants statutorily eligible for the death penalty," District Attorney Birgit Fladager said in an email. "Based on a careful review of the charges and evidence, including the levels of participation of the various defendants, the decision was made to pursue the death penalty on three of them."
The district attorney's office has not publicly discussed the circumstances in the shooting and what alleged roles each defendant played in the murders.
If a jury finds the three defendants guilty as charged, the jury will be asked to determine whether the death penalty is the appropriate punishment. Fladager said the other option would be sentences of life in prison without parole.
Since 1980, the district attorney's office has sought the death penalty against 27 defendants. But for 14 of those defendants, prosecutors ended up taking the death penalty off the table for a variety of reasons, including agreeing to a plea deal or later determining the circumstances of the case did not warrant a death sentence.
There are two other pending cases in Stanislaus County in which defendants facing murder charges are eligible for the death penalty.
Thursday, six of the defendants sat in the courtroom's jury box with their attorneys sitting behind them. Because there was no more room there, Nila sat with his attorney over to the right in the courtroom.
The defendants face enhancements, alleging they used a gun and committed the crime for the benefit of a street gang. They face special circumstances in connection with a multiple murder committed during a burglary and being active participants in a criminal street gang. Authorities have said the men are known Norteños.
Garcia and Armando Osegueda have been charged in the indictment with torture, assault with a deadly weapon and false imprisonment. Garcia also is charged with spousal abuse and enhancements of inflicting great bodily injury, using a knife and a gun and committing the crimes while out on bail.
The defendants remain in custody and were wearing red-and-white jail inmate jump suits with shackles on their wrists and ankles. Six sheriff's deputies remained inside the courtroom during the hearing to provide extra security.
Mary Lynn Belsher, Madrigal's defense attorney, asked the judge to postpone the arraignment so she could have more time to file a Demurrer motion, challenging the indictment. Stephen Foley, Garcia's defense attorney, will do the same.
Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Scott Steffen ordered the defendants to return May 13 to schedule a Demurrer hearing. At the request of the defense attorney and the prosecutor, the judge decided that the 1,300-page grand jury transcript remain sealed from the public until after the Demurrer hearing.
Grand jury proceedings are held behind closed doors, and witnesses testify without defense attorneys or their defendants present. An indictment allows prosecutors to skip the preliminary hearing phase and move straight to a trial.
The prosecutor asked the judge to move the case forward and schedule the Demurrer hearing because the victims' families also have a right to a speedy trial. "We'd like to proceed as quickly as possible to get these people arraigned and have the Demurrer heard," Ferreira said.
Martha Carlton-Magana told the judge that Thursday was only the second hearing where all the defense attorneys were present. "This case is, in fact, extremely young," she said.
Tai Bogan, Armando Osegueda's defense attorney, told the judge he will need another attorney because he is not qualified to be lead counsel on a death penalty case. The court will appoint another attorney for Osegueda.
The defense attorneys also asked for copies of exhibits of evidence submitted to the criminal grand jury, along with a copy of the questions asked during the jury selection process.
The prosecutor said she will ask a supervisor whether those questions were kept or destroyed. If they were not destroyed, Ferreira said they will hand over the questions.
"We need to know where those questions are, who destroyed them and why they were destroyed," Belsher told the judge.
Steffen asked the prosecutor to determine the whereabouts of the jury selection questions as soon as possible.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2394.
Video from morning after shooting
Video from February arrests