Crime

October 2, 2013

Trial delayed in Atwater machete homicide case

The trial of an Atwater man accused of killing another man with a machete was delayed Wednesday over the objections of the Merced County District Attorney’s Office. Antonio Cruz Guzman, 31, has pleaded not guilty in the stabbing death of Joseph McDonald of Atwater.

The trial of an Atwater man accused of killing another man with a machete was delayed Wednesday over the objections of the Merced County District Attorney’s Office.

Antonio Cruz Guzman, 31, has pleaded not guilty in the stabbing death of Joseph McDonald of Atwater.

Following a brief meeting in chambers, Judge Marc A. Garcia granted a defense request to postpone the jury trial, saying only that Merced County Public Defender Eric Dumars was “unavailable” to begin the trial scheduled for Oct.15.

The judge ordered both sides to return to court Nov.7 for a new trial-setting hearing.

“Just for the record, Your Honor, the people are opposed to the continuance,” Deputy District Attorney Thomas Min said.

Efforts to contact Dumars by telephone for comment Wednesday were not successful.

The prosecutor said he objected to the delay because he “wanted to exercise our right to a speedy trial.”

McDonald, 61, was found bleeding from numerous stab wounds to his neck and arms April28 at a home in the 1500 block of Valencia Way in Atwater. He died a short time later at Mercy Medical Center Merced.

Authorities have not released a motive for the killing.

Atwater police seized a machete they believe was tossed by the attacker as he fled the scene. Witnesses told police a man left the scene in a burgundy 1993 Chevrolet pickup.

Investigators tracked the report to Guzman’s home in the 5200 block of Crest Way. Officers said Guzman refused to cooperate with police during the search and was subdued with a Taser. Detectives said they found blood on the steering wheel of Guzman’s truck.

The defendant’s family has denied he played any role in McDonald’s death.

Guzman is facing other charges including drunken driving, driving on a suspended license, possession of a phony fishing license and immigration and probation violations, according to Merced County Jail booking records.

He remains in custody at the Merced County Jail without bail.

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