Racial undertones alleged in Fresno murder

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Race played a role in a Fresno murder, according to prosecutors. But the man accused of killing an African-American says it wasn't murder at all. (KFSN)

Race played a role in a Fresno murder, according to prosecutors. But the man accused of killing an African-American says it wasn't murder at all. One witness says Davin Rodriguez told him he stabbed somebody up near Bobby Salazar's in the Tower District. But instead of saying "somebody", he used a derogatory term. And evidence found at the scene in October backs up what the witness said.

Jerald Riley's death had a public audience. At least one man watched him engaged in a fight on Olive Ave. The witness says Riley actually chased the other man across the street, exchanged some more punches, and then he heard someone scream something about getting stabbed. At that point, Riley could barely get up.

"I saw him get up," said Reginald Combs. "He started walking. He may have taken, like six or seven steps and then he just dropped."

Another man said Davin Rodriguez told him he stabbed a black man. He said Rodriguez actually used a nasty term for a black man and it wasn't the first time he'd heard something like that from Rodriguez.

"Did Davin tell you in the past that he did not like black people coming into his neighborhood?" asked prosecutor Noelle Pebet.

"That and that he's racist," said Christopher Gloria.

Police got a warrant to arrest Rodriguez, but couldn't track him down right away. A detective did get a voicemail, though.

"It was a non-committal voicemail," said Fresno police detective Bart Ledbetter. "He didn't commit to anything."

"Did he in fact say he had nothing to do with it?" Pebet asked.

"Yes," said the detective.

But a trail of blood led south from the scene and DNA testing matched it to Rodriguez. A judge decided Thursday there is enough evidence for him to stand trial for murder and if it happens, Riley's family will be there watching.

"We're ecstatic," said the victim's sister, Christine Riley. "We feel good. Justice was halfway served. We're almost there."

The defense attorney for Rodriguez argued that even if Rodriguez did kill Riley, it was in self-defense. And when an Action News reporter asked the suspect's mother if she had anything to say, she said "We'll see what a jury thinks."
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fresnohomicide investigationcourtFresno - Tower DistrictFresno - Central
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