Witness says victim had chainsaw moments before deadly shooting

A woman on Tuesday testified that she saw Guadalupe Mario Tubera grab a chainsaw moments before he walked into a west Modesto home and was shot dead.

But Tenee Cardoza said she couldn’t remember whether she told a detective that Tubera left the chainsaw outside the house before he walked in and the deadly confrontation occurred May 4, 2011, at the home in the 1700 block of John Street. “After five years, things fade away,” she said on the witness stand.

Her testimony was part of a trial for Clinton Curtis Wilson, who is charged with murder and arson in Tubera’s death. Authorities say Wilson shot Tubera over stolen marijuana and a laptop computer, and started a fire to conceal the crime. Tubera’s body was found inside the burned home.

Wilson was living in a trailer parked next to the John Street home with the owner’s permission. The house was vacant and being remodeled.

Cardoza testified that she has known Wilson for about seven years. She arrived at the home on the day of the shooting with her boyfriend, David Luke. Shortly after, Tubera arrived in a white pickup. He got out and grabbed the chainsaw from the back of the pickup, according to Cardoza.

She said the expression on Tubera’s face looked “serious.” Then, Wilson, Tubera and Luke walked into the house. Cardoza testified that shortly after the men went inside she heard two or three gunshots. She said her boyfriend was running out of the house as the gunfire rang out; Wilson and Tubera were still inside.

Cardoza said she left the area, didn’t return to the house or see Wilson again that day.

During cross-examination, she testified that she didn’t remember seeing Tubera with anything in his hands as he walked into the house. “Not that I know of,” Cardoza said in court.

Amanda Keith was inside Wilson’s trailer when she heard three gunshots coming from the John Street house. She testified Tuesday that she didn’t know who was outside the trailer when Wilson walked out that late morning on May 4, 2011.

She said five to 10 minutes after Wilson left the trailer, she heard the gunshots. Keith didn’t hear any conversations outside the trailer that morning before the gunfire. About 15 to 20 minutes after the shooting, Wilson and Keith left and drove to a Modesto motel room on Kansas Avenue.

Nicole Pappas was already at the motel. Keith testified that Wilson said he had just shot someone, and he had tried to start a fire at the house that had possibly gone out. She said Pappas volunteered to check on the fire at the John Street house.

“She didn’t seem eager … she seemed a little nervous,” Keith said about Pappas’ demeanor.

Wilson told investigators that he shot Tubera in self-defense after he was confronted by Tubera wielding a chainsaw. Tubera was found with two gunshot wounds, one on the top of his head and the other on the side of his neck. Both wounds were potentially fatal.

Rosalio Ahumada: 209-578-2394, @ModBeeCourts