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October 1, 2013

Livingston murder defendant wants new lawyer

Jose Luis Santana, 18, appeared briefly in Merced County Superior Court and asked Judge Mark V. Bacciarini for a hearing to appoint the new attorney.

A suspected gang member charged with murder requested a new defense attorney on Monday.

Jose Luis Santana, 18, appeared briefly in Merced County Superior Court and asked Judge Mark V. Bacciarini to appoint the new attorney. The judge scheduled another hearing for Thursday, according to the court clerk’s office.

It was not clear Monday why Santana was seeking a new attorney. Efforts to reach his current attorney, Jeffrey Tenenbaum, were not successful.

Santana and Abel Renteria, 20, and have pleaded not guilty to murder, weapons and street-gang charges in connection with the April 25 death of Jose Sandoval, according to court records.

Livingston police have previously said both men are gang members.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Oct. 7, but that hearing will likely be postponed to give the new attorney time to prepare, according to Caleb Hegland, the attorney representing Renteria.

Both defendants remain in custody at the Merced County Jail. Renteria is being held without bail and Santana’s bail is set at more than $2 million, jail staff confirmed.

Sandoval, 25, was shot and killed in the 1300 block of E Street after a fight involving numerous people. Sandoval’s 18-year-old brother, whose name has not been released, was also shot but recovered, Livingston police said.

Police Chief Ruben Chavez said the defendants left after the fight and returned with a firearm.

Santana and Renteria were arrested May 3 in Livingston after a series of search warrants were served by police and the Merced County sheriff’s SWAT team.

A third man, Gelasio Gonsales Alvarado, 23, is also wanted for murder in the case. A warrant has been issued for his arrest, Chavez confirmed Monday.

“We haven’t got him yet,” Chavez said. “We’d love to get him.”

Chavez said it is possible that Alvarado fled to Southern California or Mexico.

Alvarado has been described as 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighing about 180 pounds, with brown eyes and black hair.

Anyone with information regarding Alvarado’s whereabouts can contact the Livingston Police Department at (209) 394-7917 or the Merced Area Crime Stopper line at (855) 725-2420. Callers may remain anonymous.

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