MERCED — Two Merced cousins were ordered to stand trial earlier this week in connection with the shooting of two people in September after an argument over cash for sex at the Sierra Motel on West 16th Street.
Juan Mendoza, 21, and Luis Mendoza, 37, were bound over for trial Monday by Judge Marc A. Garcia to faces charges that they tried to kill a 30-year-old woman, whom police have described as a prostitute, and an 18-year-old man, who was described in court as a possible pimp.
Several Merced police officers testified during a preliminary hearing that on Sept. 15, Luis Mendoza paid for sex that he never received and the woman refused to refund his money. Police said Luis Mendoza agreed to pay $50 for sex and gave the woman a $100 bill, but she refused to make change.
Luis Mendoza wound up outside the motel room and told his cousin, Juan Mendoza, who was waiting in a nearby vehicle, to get a gun, Detective Luis Solis testified.
A witness told police that Luis Mendoza then opened fire with a shiny, little cowboy gun, striking a man in the arm and the woman in the shoulder and stomach, Solis testified.
Under questioning from defense attorneys, Solis acknowledged that there were inconsistencies between statements from the witnesses and the people who were shot.
Defense attorneys argued that it was not clear what role either of the reported victims played in the incidents leading up to the shootings.
Defense attorney William Davis argued there was no evidence that either defendant intended to kill the pair who were shot, and said that charges of attempted manslaughter or assault with a deadly weapon were more appropriate.
Davis said much of the case was vague, and suggested the defendants were victims of a petty theft that turned violent when Luis Mendoza was somehow pushed out the motel door.
The judge noted that there was no attempt by either defendant to retrieve the money. Garcia said a statement by a witness that Luis Mendoza told Juan Mendoza to retrieve a firearm was sufficient evidence to bring the case before a jury.
Both men were ordered to return to court Dec. 3 for arraignment.
Staff writer Rob Parsons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 385-2482.