A jury on Monday afternoon found Clinton Curtis Wilson guilty of murder and arson for shooting Guadalupe Mario Tubera and starting a fire at a west Modesto home to conceal the killing.
Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Scott Steffen scheduled Wilson to return to court Aug. 15 for his sentencing hearing, when Tubera’s family will be given an opportunity to speak about his death. Wilson remains in custody at the county jail.
Deputy District Attorney Michael Houston said Wilson, 38, faces a maximum sentence of 59 years to life in prison for the conviction of first-degree murder with a gun and arson causing great bodily injury.
On May 4, 2011, Tubera’s charred body was found inside a burning home in the 1700 block of John Street. Tubera, 31, had a gunshot wound on the top of his head and another on the side of his neck. The gunshot wounds were fatal.
Houston told the jury Tubera was shot execution-style for stealing marijuana from Wilson.
Bernie Fairfield, Wilson’s attorney, told the jurors that his client fired the gun in self-defense, because Tubera was wielding an unplugged electric chain saw during the confrontation.
The John Street house was vacant and being remodeled. Wilson was working there and living in a trailer parked next to the home with the owner’s permission.
The defendant told investigators that after the fatal shooting, he panicked and tried to start a fire inside the house. He left the house and went to a Modesto motel room on Kansas Avenue, where he told friend Nicole Marie Pappas about the shooting.
Pappas testified that Wilson wasn’t sure the fire started, so she volunteered to go back and check. When she arrived at John Street home, she found no flames or smoke. She said on the witness stand she lit a paper grocery bag with a lighter, tossed the burning bag on a pile of debris inside the house and returned to the motel room.
Pappas, 34, agreed to testify in Wilson’s trial in exchange for a conviction on charges of arson of a structure and being an accessory in Tubera’s murder. She was charged with the same crimes as Wilson, but prosecutors agreed to drop the more serious charges.
The defense attorney told the jury that Pappas had a motive to lie on the witness stand, because she was receiving leniency. Fairfield argued the fire that Pappas started was the one to burn Tubera’s body and damage the home, not his client’s failed attempt at starting a fire.
The prosecutor argued that Wilson’s claim of self-defense was simply a lie he told a sheriff’s detective. Houston said Wilson never mentioned self-defense or the chain saw when he met with friends at the Modesto motel.