Decorated Army National Guard members facing Fresno murder charges

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Decorated Army National Guard members with a history of defending the country are now defending themselves against murder charges.

Jessica Wills and Jacqueline Benavides-Wills are accused of murdering another soldier on New Year's Day in 2014. But they argue -- they were only defending a fourth guard member -- a girlfriend he was attacking.

The girlfriend's story will be critical to the case and she was set to tell it today until the case got postponed. But the defense argues no matter what she says, it's going to help their case.

After two 911 calls, police arrived at an East Central Fresno condo complex a little too late on the morning of New Year's Day 2014. Jessica Wills and Jacqueline Benavides-Wills made the emergency calls to report Brian Santos attacking his girlfriend. But by the time the police tape went up, Santos was dead and his girlfriend was talking to investigators about Jessica stabbing her boyfriend.

"She essentially tells law enforcement 'she was protecting us," said Michael Aed, defense attorney. "She was protecting me. They don't know him like I do. He can get crazy."

But the woman talked to police a few times. They say she believes she didn't need protection from Wills and Benavides-Wills. She'll have another chance to tell her story at a preliminary hearing.

"Her testimony is going to be very important, no doubt about it," said ABC30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi. "And if her story has changed over the period of time, that's going to create some doubt."

Santos' criminal history could also create doubt. Defense attorneys say he has a couple prior domestic violence arrests as well as some negative history with alcohol. The military records of all four participants will be important evidence as well, Capozzi says, and that's more good news for the defense. They say Wills and benavides-wills are decorated service members, and even after the charges against them, they've stayed active and they're up for promotions.

"They've been working," said Aed. "They intend to keep their military service. They're prohibited from deploying or doing any other active duty type of assignment that they want to do."

Coroners found Santos had a blood alcohol content of .21 when he died.

The two women accused of murdering him are out of jail on $50,000 bail each -- a number drastically reduced after a judge heard some of the evidence.

Next week, another judge could leave it where it is, raise it back to a million dollars, or possibly even dismiss the case.

Copyright © 2019 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.