Convicted killer's murder confession could clear second convict

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A convicted killer is confessing to the murder of a man he'd just discovered was a registered sex offender.

The secret Lawrence Ballesteros kept eventually cost him his life. He was a registered sex offender, but never mentioned it even to close friends -- like Patricia Perez, who was his drinking buddy and landlord.

A U.S. Marshals sweep in 2012 brought his past to light, though, and not long afterward, he was stabbed to death and dumped near an Army Reserve center. Two years later, a jury convicted Perez and David Barrera of murdering him.

"Having met Ms. Perez myself in a jail interview setting, I've always thought of her as incapable of committing murder," said defense attorney Mark Siegel, who represented her at trial.

He represents her again now because Barrera says he also kept a secret. In a five-page written confession, Barrera says he alone is totally responsible for the murder. He called Ballesteros "diseased" and said he confronted the victim about being a sex offender. Ballesteros didn't want to talk about it, so Barrera says he pulled out a knife and stabbed him 58 times.

Physical evidence at trial showed Ballesteros also had ligature marks around his neck. Barrera explained those, saying he finished his beer and ate some sunflower seeds after the stabbing, then realized Ballesteros was still breathing, so he strangled him.

"Tying somebody up and stabbing them 58 times seems like a difficult task for one person, is it not?" an Action News reporter asked Siegel.

"Yes," Siegel replied. "I think Mr. Barrera is strong enough to do that, though. If he stabs him and his victim is subdued I guess he can strangle him."

But prosecutors always insisted the murder required two killers and blood spatter evidence pointed to one person behind Ballesteros while another was stabbing him from the front.

When Action News asked about the confession letter, the district attorney's office issued this statement:

"The Fresno County district attorney's office is dedicated to seeking justice is every case. When information like that from convicted murderer David Barrera is received, it is examined. Based upon that examination, the Fresno County district attorney's office has confidence in the conviction that was reached by the jury in this case."

"That's the big issue in this case," said ABC30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi. "If it's not believable now after they have a hearing, nothing's going to change."

Barrera's defense attorney, Gerald Schwab, says his client was actually pretty close to getting a new trial on appeal, but this confession could ruin his chances.

Perez is now asking a judge to throw out her conviction.
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