Fresno family could put double murder suspect in prison

May 28, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Seven years after a double murder tore a family apart and left a survivor paralyzed, the trial has begun for the man accused of shooting the family in a dispute over a dog.

Martin Villalobos Hernandez, 44, is charged with two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder.

The shooting broke up a family party in May 2006 and killed James Rodriguez and Nicole Allen -- right in front of their three young children. Their family members started testifying Tuesday, but it could be the Hernandez family that makes or breaks the case.

Photos and memories are all that remains of Rodriguez and Allen, but their family members still carry them everywhere. In court, those memories will be put to the test. Several family members were in this Southwest Fresno apartment seven years ago when a man came looking for his Chihuahua, and opened fire.

"He had come in the door, you saw how the door swung," prosecutor Jeff Dupras told the jury. "James was getting up to shut the door, hadn't been hit yet, and his arm comes in as they're struggling. [Hernandez] shoots him in the leg, shoots him in the chest."

Prosecutors say Martin Hernandez was the man on the other side of the door. He'd already killed Allen and paralyzed Joey Rodriguez, who testified Tuesday from his wheelchair.

The victims couldn't identify Hernandez in a police lineup, but they tell me they'll recognize him when they see his eyes in court. But prosecutors say the most critical evidence could come from Hernandez's own family. His son told police his father confessed to him. And his sister, Socorro Alvarado, told them he even threatened her as he dropped off his children before escaping to Mexico.

"You've seen the news -- you have two dead people in Southwest Fresno and a third in a wheelchair, of course this was on the news -- the same thing's going to happen to you if you talk," Dupras said Hernandez told his sister.

But Alvarado's story changed at a previous hearing and the defense says there's nothing proving Hernandez was even at the scene of the crime.

"There is no DNA, no fingerprints, no weapon, no identification and once you look at the evidence, you'll be convinced there is nothing here," said Margarita Martinez-Baly.

Hernandez was in Mexico for two years and Mexican authorities wouldn't extradite him because the death penalty was on the table. He was arrested after coming back to the U.S., but prosecutors eventually dropped the death penalty. The trial is expected to last a couple weeks.


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