Trial begins in murder of Fresno County farmer

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The first of four suspects in the murder of Fresno County farmer George Salwasser Jr. went on trial Monday. (KFSN)

The first of four suspects in the murder of Fresno County farmer George Salwasser Jr. went on trial Monday. The prosecution claims Fabian Mansanalez is guilty of murder because he started the chain of events which led to the shooting death of Salwasser.

Fresno County Deputy District Attorney William Lacy laid out the case in his opening argument. He said, "Fabian Mansanalez steals a car, he makes a plan with three other people to strip the rims off the car and sell them for money."

It happened in May 2014. The plan involved taking the stolen pickup truck to a vacant lot in a rural area near Biola, where two other men would take the rims off. Mansanalez and his sister, Maria, dropped the men, Adrian Aceves and Jose Canas, off, and drove to a convenience store. While they were at the store, the owner of the property, George Salwasser Jr., arrived and confronted the two stripping the truck.

Macy described the scene for the jury: "George has a gun in one hand and he has a cellphone in the other. He tells Adrian, 'don't go anywhere I'm gonna call the cops.'"

But Adrian runs. The prosecution claims Jose Canas had a gun and shot and killed Salwasser. Adrian then calls Fabian, who is down the road with his sister, Maria, who is Adrian's fiancee.

"Adrian tells Fabian, 'the guy just killed somebody, come pick me up.' Fabian doesn't call 911. Fabian doesn't go home. Fabian drives back to the lot and picks up Adrian."

Defense Attorney Mark Siegel says his client did wrong, but was not a killer. He said, "As you have been told countless times, the evidence shows George Salwasser was shot and killed by a man named Jose Canas. And at the time that happened, Fabian Mansanalez was not present and did not fire the shot that killed him."

Maria Mansanalez took the stand and tearfully testified about the incident. She and her fiance, Adrian Aceves, have accepted a plea deal in exchange for their testimony against Fabian Mansanalez and Jose Canas, the man accused of firing the shots that killed George Salwasser Jr. Canas is still awaiting trial.

In summing up, Siegel told the jury that when all the facts are presented: "You'll have a pretty good idea of why Fabian Mansanalez was charged with receiving a stolen vehicle; you still won't have any idea why he's charged with murder."

Testimony continues on Tuesday.
Related Topics:
crimetrackercrimeshootingmurdertrialcourtcourt caseFresnoKermanFresno County
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