EXCLUSIVE: Detectives challenge National Guard members accused of Fresno murder

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A decorated National Guard member admits to stabbing a fellow soldier, but tries to tell police she did it in self-defense. (KFSN)

A decorated National Guard member admits to stabbing a fellow soldier, but tries to tell police she did it in self-defense.

"It just escalated and he came at me and I wasn't going to die," Jessica Wills told police in January 2014. "I wasn't going to die tonight."

Detectives didn't believe the stories they got from Wills or her wife and fellow Guard member, Jacqueline Benavides-Wills.

With her attorney's arm over her shoulder, Wills watched herself on the video screen giving her version of the deadly confrontation with her fellow National Guard member, Brian Santos. In the police interview room, she had no such support, but explained Santos had abused his girlfriend and attacked both Wills and her wife. Ultimately, she stopped his attacks with a knife.

"I didn't mean to do whatever happened, but my life was threatened," Wills said. "He was coming at me and he told me he was going to kill me."

Wills said she brought the knife with her as the fight traveled from her East Central Fresno condo out onto the sidewalk and the street. And she demonstrated how she delivered the final, deadly blow.

"So I hit you," said Fresno police detective Andre Benson, who was posing as Santos in a re-enactment. "I actually hit you on the face."

"I go in," Wills explained after the punch, and then made a stabbing motion. "Bam. I got you. And then he came at me one more time."

But detectives clearly didn't buy her story. Her wife, Jacqueline Benavides-Wills had called 911 twenty minutes earlier to report the danger posed by Santos. And she was talking to emergency dispatchers again when the confrontation turned deadly. Benavides-Wills talked about possibly being forced to stab Santos, and she later told detectives she thought Wills had left the fight to get the knife from inside their home.

"Does this stabbing ever happen if she never leaves, goes gets the knife and comes back?" Benson asked her.

"I'm sure it would've," Benavides-Wills responded.

But Benson told her Wills had upped the ante, and both he and detective Leonard Cabrera asked why they didn't just go back home and stay there.

"What we want you to understand is he wants to leave," Benson said of Santos. "His primary focus, and you said it, was to leave."

Both women told police they couldn't abandon each other or the girlfriend, who they say Santos had already decked several times. And they also didn't want him to drive because he was drunk. Coroners determined Santos was almost three times the legal limit.

A judge will decide later this week whether the women should stand trial for murder.
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