Homicide suspect Morse appears in court; no plea entered

08/07/2014 5:31 PM

08/07/2014 9:13 PM

Legal wrangling was set in motion Thursday in the homicide case against the son of the Merced County district attorney.

The attorney defending Ethan B. Morse, son of District Attorney Larry D. Morse II, asked Judge Ronald W. Hansen for time to file a demurrer, a document formally challenging the charges filed in the case.

Morse, 18, was arrested July 25 and charged with murder in connection with the death of Bernabed Hernandez-Canela, 18. Hernandez was one of three teenagers shot and killed March 30, 2013, at a large house party in the 9200 block of Westside Boulevard, outside Atwater.

The California attorney general’s office is prosecuting the case against all four defendants in light of the allegations against the district attorney’s son.

Morse has yet to enter a plea in the case. He is charged with murder and permitting another person to shoot from his vehicle, according to the complaint filed in Merced Superior Court.

Morse’s attorney, Kirk McAllister, said he will “attack the legal sufficiency” of the charges filed against his client. “(The demurrer) challenges the allegations and can result in a more focused, more specific allegation,” McAllister said.

Morse was ordered to appear in court again Sept. 11 for arguments on the demurrer. He remains in custody without bail at the Mariposa County jail, where he was taken for his safety because of his father’s position in Merced County law enforcement.

McAllister has been highly critical of Sheriff’s Department investigators in the case and said the defense’s investigation “shows without question that Ethan Morse is innocent.” Sheriff Tom Cavallero has stood by his detectives and noted the state attorney general’s office also appears confident in the case.

Samantha Parreira, 16, and Matthew Fisher, 19, were also shot and killed at the same party, but according to Merced County sheriff’s deputies, their deaths came in a separate attack from other alleged gunmen who have also been arrested.

Jose L. Botello and Jose M. Carballido, both 19-year-old Atwater residents, are accused of killing Parreira and Fisher at the party. Botello has pleaded not guilty.

Carballido appeared in court briefly Thursday but did not enter a plea. His attorney, Robert Wynne, asked Judge Hansen to postpone Carballido’s arraignment until Aug. 22 to allow more time to review the evidence in the case.

Morse’s co-defendant, Jacob Tellez, 18, of Merced has been charged with shooting Hernandez-Canela. He has pleaded not guilty.

Tellez, Botello and Carballido are due back in court Aug. 22.

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