MERCED -- The fate of a 43-year-old convict accused of pumping three 9-mm bullets into a friend over counterfeit cash and tainted love is in the hands of a Merced County jury.
Jurors heard closing arguments Friday in the trial of John Ruben Rivera, who's accused of killing Ray Sabala, 28, in April 1998 at the Merced National Wildlife Refuge.
Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse II charged that Rivera was in a rage after hearing Sabala was involved with his ex-girlfriend.
Morse said Rivera lured Sabala to the refuge and shot him three times in the presence of two others.
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Morse emphasized testimony by a former meth addict who claims she was at the scene when Sabala was killed, having traveled there with Sabala, Rivera and a man named Michael Gonzales on the day of the murder.
The woman said she heard a single gunshot. She saw Sabala on the ground making a gurgling noise and Rivera pointing the gun at Gonzales. Rivera turned the gun back on Sabala, she testified, and fired two more times.
Rivera's attorney, Hayden Smith, attacked her testimony, saying she was once considered a suspect in Sabala's death. Smith said the woman admitted having a foggy memory because of constant methamphetamine use.
At the time of his arrest in June last year, Rivera was at the tail end of a seven-year sentence at Salinas Valley State Prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm.