Trial awaits Modesto man accused in wife's death

rahumada@modbee.comSeptember 5, 2013 

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    Rosalio Ahumada
    Title: Courts reporter
    Coverage areas: Criminal cases, breaking news
    Bio: Rosalio Ahumada has been a reporter at The Bee for more than seven years, previously covering crime and public safety issues. He also has worked at the Merced Sun-Star, covering education.
    Recent stories written by Rosalio
    On Twitter: @ModBeeCourts
    E-mail: rahumada@modbee.com

— A judge on Thursday decided there is enough evidence for a 55-year-old Modesto man to stand trial charged with murder in the shooting of his wife during an apparent domestic dispute about two years ago.

Mitchell Joseph Azevedo is accused of shooting his wife, 60-year-old Sharon Lorraine Azevedo. The defendant remains in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail as he awaits his trial.

The shooting occurred during an argument shortly before 5 p.m. Aug. 21, 2011, at the couple's home in the 3300 block of Creek Bed Court in north Modesto.

Police received two calls that day. The first reported the dispute, and the second reported that the woman may have been shot. She was pronounced dead at a Modesto hospital. Officers had been at the Azevedo home before, responding to other domestic disputes, Modesto police officials have said.

Azevedo's preliminary hearing concluded Thursday. Before the judge's ruling, the attorneys gave their closing arguments.

Peter Stavrianoudakis, Azevedo's attorney, told the judge his client said the gun just went off and it was an accident.

The defense attorney argued that the entrance wound was at an angle that would have required the gun to be fired from a position 10 feet above the ground. He said his client was sitting at a table when the gun fired.

Stavrianoudakis told the judge the more likely scenario was that the gun fired a shot into the ceiling and the bullet ricocheted downward, hitting Azevedo's wife.

Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Thomas Zeff stopped Stavrianoudakis during his argument and asked the defense attorney if a ricocheting bullet was the defense for his client. The judge said he just wanted to make sure that's what Stavrianoudakis was saying. The defense attorney also argued the bullet had deformities consistent with a shot that ricocheted off the ceiling.

Deputy District Attorney Rick Mury told the judge that testimony indicated the bullet had deformities as a result of hitting the woman's sternum; she was shot in the chest.

He also said Azevedo was not sitting, that he and his wife were on opposite sides of a table when she was shot. The prosecutor said the angle of the entrance wound shows that the gunman was taller than the victim, and there was no evidence that indicated the ceiling was made of material that would have ricocheted a bullet.

Mury told the judge the defendant had made statements a few months before the shooting that he had plans for the gun and was going to use it on his wife. Azevedo also said he was going to get away with it, but he would go to hell for it, according to the prosecutor.

"The defendant brought a gun to a verbal argument," Mury said in court.

Azevedo then pointed the gun at his wife and fired the weapon, Mury argued.

Zeff heard the arguments and ordered the defendant to stand trial charged with premeditated murder with an enhancement for using a gun in the alleged crime. The judge scheduled Azevedo to return to court Sept. 19 for an arraignment hearing.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or (209) 578-2394. Follow him on Twitter @ModBeeCourts.

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