Murder trial could hinge on defendant's long hair

FRESNO, Calif.

As Varela's lawyer told Action News Monday, this case isn't exactly a whodunit. Varela admits he shot Daniel Cabrera, but claims it was self-defense, and his long hair might help him prove it.

A chaotic scene greeted police who arrived at this central Fresno home two weeks ago. More than ten people live in the home, and at least six of them were involved in a brawl that ended in the death of 40-year-old Daniel Cabrera.

Cabrera's side of the family says Jack Varela was attacking him with a screwdriver. Santos Zamarano told police he saw Varela go into a garage and come out with a shotgun.

"At that point, Zamarano spun one of (Cabrera's sons) around and he heard the gunshot," said Fresno police detective John Viveros. "Zamarano told me the victim didn't have anything in his hands. He was not armed."

But later that day, Varela's wife told Action News Cabrera and a few other people were attacking her and her husband. She says Varela only grabbed the gun to eliminate a threat.

"I just don't understand (why Varela is charged with murder) because if he didn't do that, I wouldn't be here right now," Mary Varela said.

Varela's attorney says Cabrera told her client he was going to kill him, and Varela had every reason to believe the threat was credible.

Ten times prosecutors had filed felony cases against Cabrera, including an attempted murder charge in 2006. A jury acquitted him in that case, but Cabrera was convicted on others and was on probation for drug possession and DUI.

Varela's attorney also believes Cabrera was armed and had drawn blood with two weapons.

"There was a lot of blood, and there was a 2x4 there with blood on it," Detective Viveros said.

"And there was also a hammer with blood and hair on it?" asked defense attorney Margarita Martinez-Baly.

"Next to the body, that's correct," Viveros said.

Any hair evidence will be critical to the case. In the video, Varela has plenty of hair, but Cabrera's DMV picture shows he had very little. Bloody hair found on a weapon could go a long way toward proving Varela was under attack.

A judge decided Monday there is enough evidence for Varela to stand trial for murder. He's due back in court in two weeks, and his trial could start as soon as next month.

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