A Ceres man must stand trial on two murder charges, a judge said Tuesday at the close of a preliminary hearing. The case involves a dispute that escalated into an early morning gunfight after acquaintances exchanged angry words while eating pizza.
Timothy Carrillo is accused of showing up at his cousin's apartment about 4 a.m. April 15, then opening fire on her boyfriend, perhaps to avenge another relative's hurt ego.
Pete Garcia, 29, died after an exchange of gunfire with Carrillo, and Cary Thompson Jr., 22, was caught in the crossfire as he slept on a living room couch. The men, both from Modesto, died at the scene.
Olivia Valdovinos, who dated Garcia, described the scene at her apartment on Evans Road in Ceres. She told the court that Car- rillo, her cousin, showed up at her door with a gun shortly after another cousin had exchanged insults with Garcia.
She also described how Garcia died on her kitchen floor.
"He goes, 'Tell my mom I love her,' " Valdovinos recalled on the stand, noting that she learned of Thompson's death later.
Defendant's, victims' supporters kept apart
Just who fired the first shot is a matter of debate.
A prosecutor said Carrillo went to the Almond Terrace Apartments with a plan to shoot Garcia. A defense attorney said Garcia was the first to open fire.
The distinction could mean the difference between first-degree murder convictions, which require premeditation and would bring sentences of 25 years to life for each count, and manslaughter convictions, which require a heat-of-passion condition and carry sentences of three to 11 years in prison.
Judge Ricardo Córdova said a jury would have to settle the matter, adding that Car- rillo must stand trial on double-murder and gun charges.
An audience of family and friends watched the two-day hearing, with supporters from each side filling the courtroom. Bailiffs kept the sides separate, asking them to file out of the courtroom in shifts, to avoid confrontations.
Friends of the victims choked back tears as a prosecutor showed photos of the crime scene. The show of emotion became such a distraction, the judge called for a short recess so everyone could regain their composure.
Carrillo's supporters seemed angry or resigned when he was held for trial. Carrillo is scheduled to return to court Jan. 30 for an arraignment.
Bee staff writer Susan Herendeen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2338.