Man convicted of killing Army vet calls for a new trial, new attorney

The 49-year-old Santa Nella man convicted of killing U.S. Army veteran Fahd Mohamed Hussein was back in court Tuesday, seeking a new trial and a new attorney.

A Merced County jury in February convicted Edward Arviso of stabbing Hussein to death during an early morning robbery at a Santa Nella market. Prosecutors said Arviso committed the crime with an accomplice, David Fagundes, who's serving 22 years in prison after agreeing to testify against Arviso as a condition of his plea agreement.

During Tuesday's hearing, defense attorney William Davis filed the motion for a new trial with Judge Brian McCabe. Davis claims Fagundes lied more than once during Arviso's jury trial, such as giving testimony about leaving clothes he wore during the crime at a Merced gas station. Davis also maintains that Chief Deputy District Attorney Harold Nutt, the case's prosecutor, acknowledged that Fagundes wasn't truthful.

"The victim's blood may have been found on those clothes," Davis said. "It shifts the nature of who committed the crime."

Nutt didn't elaborate about the motion for a new trial, saying he hadn't read it. But Nutt said it's common practice for the defense to ask for a new trial.

"I'm just glad that we finally have what appears to be a firm sentencing date," Nutt said.

McCabe is scheduled to rule on the motion Aug. 18. If the motion is rejected, Arviso likely will be sentenced to life without parole.

Shackled at the waist and wearing a bright orange jumpsuit, Arviso spoke during Tuesday's hearing, complaining that Davis hadn't visited him in jail since Friday and asking McCabe for a new attorney.

The judge turned down Arviso's request, saying Davis has "put considerable time" into the motion for a new trial and has been "aggressively" proceeding forward in the case. "The fact that (Davis) doesn't come and visit you isn't a reason to appoint new counsel," McCabe told Arviso.

The crime happened during the early morning on Jan. 25, 2007, at Santa Nella Market, 13301 S. Highway 33 near Interstate 5. Hussein was working at the store as a clerk.

Prosecutors say Arviso beat the victim over the head with a wrench, bound him with a zip tie, then stabbed him nine times in the head with a fillet knife.

Jurors found Arviso guilty of first-degree murder and robbery, with three special circumstances including torture.

An immigrant from Yemen, Hussein was a U.S. Army veteran who'd served in Afghanistan and Bosnia.

Reporter Samuel Cosby can be reached at (209) 385-2484 or scosby@mercedsun-star.com.