MERCED — A trio accused of killing a 40-year-old man to reap $1 million in benefits from a life insurance policy made a brief appearance Tuesday in Merced County Superior Court.
Laura Hernandez, 37, her son Erick Camarillo, 20, and Edgar Garcia, 16, are charged with murder in the March 14 death of Alberto Rodriguez Macias near Dos Palos. A fourth suspect in the case, Hernandez's 15-year-old daughter, is being dealt with in juvenile court.
Garcia is being tried as an adult.
The shackled defendants were in court Tuesday for a scheduled preliminary hearing, in which a judge decides whether there's enough evidence to proceed to trial. Judge Ronald Hansen rescheduled the hearing for Monday because some attorneys and investigators in the case are tied up in another trial.
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"We're kind of stuck this morning," Chief Deputy District Attorney John Goold told Hansen.
The three defendants stood quietly in jailhouse uniforms during the five-minute hearing. None of them made eye contact or spoke with one another during the hearing.
All the defendants have pleaded not guilty and deny the accusations.
Merced County sheriff's detectives believe the suspects conspired to kill Macias. Investigators believe Hernandez was the ringleader and Garcia was the triggerman.
The victim was found March 14 at a house at 7980 Azuza Road. Hernandez had told investigators she had been with Macias most of the day and had gone next door to get food for him. She claimed to have returned to the house and found his body. She then went back to the neighbor's home for help.
Sheriff's investigators said her timeline didn't add up, however, because Macias appeared to have been dead longer than she claimed.
The defendants also allegedly sent incriminating text messages to one another, leading up to the killing.
The defendants are being held without bail.