Accusations of unbridled greed, threats to abort an unborn baby and a $5,000 hit on a man's life.
Those details emerged Monday during a court appearance by three people accused of murdering Alberto Rodriguez Macias, 40.
Macias' wife, Laura Hernandez, 37, her son Erick Camarillo, 20, and Edgar Garcia, 16, are accused of killing Macias on March 14 near Dos Palos. A fourth suspect in the case, Hernandez's 15-year-old daughter, is being dealt with in juvenile court.
After testimony by Merced County sheriff's detectives during Monday's preliminary hearing, Judge Ronald Hansen determined there was ample evidence to try the trio for murder.
The most revealing part of the hearing came when Detective Mike Ruiz took the stand, testifying about interviews between him and Garcia, the alleged triggerman. During interviews with detectives, the teenager admitted killing Macias, saying Hernandez offered him $5,000 to commit the killing. Garcia told deputies Hernandez wanted her husband dead to reap the benefits of nearly $1 million in life insurance policies -- and she promised to pay him the $5,000 from that money.
But there was more. Garcia also told detectives Hernandez's daughter had become pregnant, and Garcia's believed to be the father. Hernandez allegedly threatened to abort the baby if Garcia didn't agree to kill Macias (the baby was eventually born).
Garcia told detectives Hernandez gave him money to buy a gun, and he was driven to the scene by Camarillo. Hernandez's daughter was also in the vehicle. Garcia wore gloves and entered the home, seeing Macias asleep on a makeshift bed. Macias woke up, yelled and tried to get up, but Garcia allegedly shot the victim three times.
Garcia told detectives he left through a bedroom window and ran back to Camarillo's vehicle. As they drove away, however, Hernandez's daughter and Camarillo questioned whether Macias was indeed dead. Camarillo drove back to the scene and Garcia went back into the house to confirm Macias had died.
Hernandez listened intently to testimony through a Spanish interpreter, while Camarillo and Garcia sat straight-faced through much of the hearing. Hernandez wept heavily for several moments, after hearing testimony from Detective Ruiz, who said Hernandez's daughter claimed during interviews her mother "had never loved her."
Detectives say Macias had been renovating the house at 7980 Azuza Road the day of his death. Hernandez told investigators she'd been with Macias that day and had gone next door to get food for him. She claimed to have returned to the house, found his body and went back to the neighbor's home for help.
But sheriff's investigators said Hernandez's timeline didn't add up. Plus, they obtained text messages that appear to incriminate the defendants.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Harold Nutt said there's other evidence that didn't come out in Monday's preliminary hearing. "I think we have the evidence to prove guilt on all three defendants," Nutt said.
Jeffrey Tenenbaum, who's defending Camarillo in the case, seriously questioned Detective Ruiz about his client's alleged involvement in the case. Tenenbaum asked Ruiz whether there's any evidence his client was present when the murder happened, other than Garcia and the girl's testimony. Ruiz replied, "No."
At the end of the hearing, Tenenbaum questioned whether the evidence presented against his client is credible. "That certainly isn't enough to hold him for murder or conspiracy to commit murder," Tenenbaum told Hansen. Hansen disagreed, however, saying the testimony appears to show a "higher degree of involvement" by Camarillo.
Garcia is being defended by attorney David Capron, while Hernandez is being represented by deputy public defenders Chris Loethen and Paul Lyon.
The defendants are being held without bail on suspicion of murder and insurance fraud. All have pleaded not guilty.
Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.