Gruesome Murder Trial

December 22, 2008 2:03:36 PM PST
Jurors serving on a Fresno County murder case heard gruesome details today about the death of a sixteen -year old girl.Investigators found Courtney Rice's body in the back of a pickup truck, during the summer of 2006.

Attorneys for the four defendants agree their clients and the 16-year-old victim were bulldog gang members.

They did drugs and lived a life of crime. But during their opening statements attorneys disagreed on who raped and murdered the girl.

Prosecutor Chris Gularte described the final and painful moments of Courtney Rice's life.

Chris Gularte, Prosecutor: "She was cuffed with her hands behind her back with handcuffs. Her ankles were cuffed. She was made to be on the ground. Black electrical tape wrapped around her eyes."

Gularte said Rice was raped before she was choked, suffocated and ultimately murdered.

Investigators found her body in the back of this truck which was parked at a Fresno impound lot.

The defendants are Michelle Molina, Albert Vargas, Roger Alley, and Joseph Lopez.

Investigators accused Lopez of being Rice's boyfriend and orchestrating the murder.

But his attorney said Lopez was not there during the crime.

Phillip Cherney: "I don't know that there's anybody that is likable here. My client is a scoundrel like some of the other people here. But he didn't murder anybody."

The crime happened in Molina's apartment at the Park Apartments in Central Fresno.

Her attorney says Molina is guilty of a lesser crime.

Ernest Kinney, Defense Attorney: "There's no question Michelle Molina is guilty of moral issues. There's no question that she helped dispose of the body."

Gularte: "Why did this occur? It occurred because she snitched."

Gularte says Rice was killed for talking about crimes committed with the defendant Joseph Lopez.

But another defense attorney told juror's Rice died of a methamphetamine overdose and was never raped.

At least two of the defendants will testify during this trial. Michelle Molina is expected to take the stand and blame the other defendants. The first witness will be called tomorrow morning.


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