MODESTO — A judge on Thursday released a defendant on his own recognizance after prosecutors dropped a murder charge against him and instead charged him with being an accessory in the death of a 30-year-old man who was found three years ago along a rural road north of Modesto.
Initially, the Stanislaus County district attorney's office accused Gregory Fisher of being responsible for the shooting death of Modesto resident Brian Morris. The victim's body was found June 11, 2010, along Costner Road.
Deputy District Attorney John Goulart said after Thursday's hearing that evidence and other information collected after further investigation indicates that Fisher is not responsible for Morris' death.
The prosecutor, however, amended the criminal complaint, which now accuses of Fisher of being an accessory.
Goulart said investigators have identified a suspect they believe is responsible for Morris' death, but that suspect is not in custody. He declined to release the suspect's name, fearing it would make it difficult for investigators to find the suspect.
Because the murder charge was dropped, Bob Wildman, Fisher's defense attorney, asked the judge to release his client on his own recognizance until his case comes to a conclusion.
The prosecutor did not object to the defense's request, so long as Fisher complies with a restraining order, which was received and signed by the judge Thursday morning.
Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Marie Silveira ordered Fisher to stay away from Morris' family and not to contact them as he awaits prosecution. The judge scheduled Fisher to return to court Aug. 21 for a pretrial hearing.
Fisher, 31, had been held in the Stanislaus County Jail for 13 months in lieu of $3 million bail. His preliminary hearing had been scheduled, but later postponed.
When Fisher was arrested in June 2012, Stanislaus County sheriff's detectives said they believed Morris' slaying was in part the result of an argument over a car stolen from one of his friends.
At the time, Detective Frank Soria told The Bee that Morris was believed to have confronted Fisher's uncle about the car the week before his death but later apologized.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2394. Follow him on Twitter @ModBeeCourts.