Accused gang shooter to stand trial for murder

FRESNO, Calif.

That trial could hinge on a single witness -- a woman whose health kept her from testifying in a hearing that wrapped up Tuesday.

/*Jerel Stanfield*/, 25, has been on the radar of gang police since he was 14.

Police say Stanfield was known as a shooter in his gang and he lived up to his reputation by killing Will Simpson earlier this year. Stanfield's life will never be the same, no matter the outcome of his murder trial.

For more than a decade, Jerel Stanfield walked the streets of Fresno as a feared member of a well-known gang.

"He's what would be known in a gang subculture as a 'big homie'," said Fresno Police Dept. gang expert Melanie Mayo.

Stanfield picked up a couple felony convictions and a reputation as a shooter. These days, Stanfield's presence still puts police on alert. But he sits in a wheelchair, partially paralyzed in a confrontation as police tried to solve the shooting for which he now faces charges.

Police say they tried to pull Stanfield over to question him about the murder of Will Simpson in March. Stanfield led them on a long, slow chase until he crashed near his house.

Police shot him in the back and the head and as he lay on the ground, officers found he had a loaded gun with the same caliber bullets used to kill Simpson. But the only person who says she saw Stanfield kill his rival gang member was Simpson's girlfriend. And she didn't identify him as the shooter right away.

"We find it incredible she was turning around, looking away, grabbing her son, yet then five days later changes her story and identifies Jerel Stanfield as being the shooter," said defense attorney Robert Wynne.

Police gang experts say Stanfield knew he was sending a message by killing Simpson, and he knew word would get out about it if he left behind a witness.

"By allowing Ms. Ramsey to witness that and to see that, she's now the messenger that's going to take that back," said Detective Mayo. "People are going to know about it."

A judge decided Tuesday that there is enough evidence for Stanfield to stand trial. He's due back in court next month. He's facing life in prison for the murder, plus another life term for using a gun, plus several more years for other crimes and gang enhancements.

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