MERCED -- A 22-year-old man arrested in the killing of a Merced restaurant owner will stand trial on first degree murder and additional charges, Judge Brian McCabe determined Wednesday.
McCabe came to his decision after hearing Merced police detectives testify in the case of Evan James Lovett, who's accused of bludgeoning Benjamin Munsayac, 49, to death in February.
Munsayac was co-owner of Traditional Filipino Cuisine, a restaurant in North Merced's Raley's shopping center. The restaurant closed not long after Munsayac died. He was also a caregiver.
Lovett's next court hearing is scheduled for Nov. 28.
Deputy District Attorney Steven Slocum said the trial will most likely take place sometime next year. "I believe there is sufficient evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt," Slocum said.
William Davis, Lovett's attorney, could not be reached at press time.
Munsayac was killed at Accesscare Home of Merced at 128 E. Main St. According to police reports, officers found Munsayac's body Feb. 21 inside his bedroom at the home, where he worked as a licensed caregiver.
Police testified Wednesday that the defendant's girlfriend said Lovett had been angry because he felt the victim owed him money.
According to police reports, officers learned about the death after a caller reported to dispatchers that Lovett had been at the Gateway Motel on West 16th Street with blood on his pants and shoes, stating that he killed someone.
Meanwhile, responding to a report of a crash in the 800 block of East Childs Avenue, police spotted the victim's abandoned Chrysler, and Lovett hiding in bushes nearby with blood on his pants and shoes.
Lovett gave numerous statements to police, including that he'd been forced to wear the bloody clothes at gunpoint by an unidentified "Latino" person. Lovett told police he'd worked as a caregiver at Accesscare.
He remains in custody at the Merced County Jail. The murder charge includes special circumstances for robbery-carjacking, committing a crime for financial gain and use of a deadly weapon.
City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or email@example.com.