2 accused Fresno's first 2014 murder appear in court

The newlywed couple accused of stabbing a Southern California man to death at a New Year?s Eve celebration made their first court appearance Monday.
January 6, 2014 3:32:00 PM PST
The newlywed couple accused of stabbing a Southern California man to death at a New Year's Eve celebration made their first court appearance Monday. Fresno police say the women stabbed 31-year-old Brian Santos after a fight.

Jessica Wills and Jacqueline Benavides do not have any prior criminal record. Their attorneys say they got married last September and bought a condo together. Monday, when they were brought into court in handcuffs their families cried.

Jessica wills and Jacqueline Benavides sat next to each other and often looked at the dozens of family members and friends who showed up to support them.

Each has hired a private defense attorney to represent them.

"She is distraught. That's the best way for me to put it. I was speaking with her as the media left the courtroom she broke down in tears. She understands the process," Wills attorney Michael Aed said.

"They've never been in jail before so it's absolutely traumatizing to them. They are just getting over the shock now, but it's very emotional," Benavides attorney, Serita Rios said.

Police allege the two stabbed Brian Santos to death during a fight at the couple's condo off Fowler and Shields. Attorneys representing the pair say they were defending the victim's girlfriend, when the confrontation got out of control.

"It's our understanding that the complaining witness or the victim in this case may have been acting violent during the night, belligerent. Perhaps may have made some advances toward his girlfriend. We're still trying to develop that a little more," Serita Rios said.

Defense attorneys want the 9-1-1 calls and other evidence officers collected at the scene. They will also be reviewing preliminary police reports they received Monday before wills and Benavides enter a plea later this month.

Wills works part time for a valet company and most recently parked cars at Fleming's restaurant in Fashion Fair. Her attorney says days before the murder, she saved a man who was not breathing at the restaurant.

Attorneys say the couple met several years ago in the army national guard. The victim was also in the military. Santos lived in Anaheim and was in town to celebrate the holiday. Most of his family lives in Hawaii and is now working to raise money to travel to southern California for services.

Wills and Benavides remain in jail, each with bail amounts more than a million dollars.


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