Father-son murder trial prompted by cell phone data, surveillance video

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A Fresno father and son accused of a murder targeting the father's romantic rival are now standing trial together.

Police knew almost immediately in January 2020 that the victim was not the intended target.

But it took investigators about a month to collect cell phone data, surveillance video and witness statements leading up to the arrests of Jesus Serena, Sr., and Jesus Serena, Jr.

Florentino Higuera died in an onslaught of gunfire through the door of his friend's home.

"The letter cards here mark evidence indicating we located six apparent bullet strikes," said Fresno Police Cpl. Sergio Gonzalez as he testified about a photograph showing bullet holes in the door.

Prosecutors say Jesus Serena, Jr., pulled the trigger at the direction of Jesus Serena, Sr.

Police found video of the father in a brief fight with the home's owner, George Castellanos, a little more than an hour before the shooting.

And prosecutors say video and cell phone evidence proves the Serenas came to finish the fight.

"Senior's Chevy Equinox is captured leaving the scene by a surveillance camera at the McKenzie Market, which is two doors down from the Castellanos residence," said prosecutor Amy Freeman.

Defense attorneys describe a chaotic crime scene with neighbors moving things around before police preserved all the evidence.

"From the very beginning of this case, what you have are discrepancies in evidence," said Charles Barrett, who represents the father.

And they say even Castellanos couldn't identify who came to his door or who opened fire.

"What you won't see is a witness that is able to ID Junior as the shooter," said defense attorney Beth Morgan, who represents the son.

The defense attorneys admit their clients lied to police about whether they were, but prosecutors argue the surveillance video and GPS data fills in the blanks.

"Junior denies being in the area or seeing his father that day," Freeman said. "Their cell phones will tell you a different story."

The Serenas each face at least 25 years to life in prison if they're convicted of first-degree murder.

The trial is expected to last until mid-January.
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