Preliminary hearing continues for man accused of killing San Joaquin Memorial HS student

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- It's a murder that stunned Fresno's Fig Garden community.

Investigators say 17-year-old Nick Kauls was shot and killed in a robbery attempt in June of last year.

Testimony continued in the preliminary hearing for Joseph Espinoza, the man accused of pulling the trigger.

Defense Attorney Ralph Torres said, "This defendant is exposed to life in prison without parole and if the prosecution decides, we could be looking at a death penalty case."

Prosecutor Deborah Miller didn't want to comment mid-trial.

The ex-girlfriend of José Figueroa took the stand Thursday. She identified the defendant as Figueroa's friend, saying he went by "Jaso" and that he and several friends frequently stayed at her home.

Investigators believe Espinoza went on a series of shootings and robberies to try to post bail for Figueroa.

The prosecution tried to tie a link to the night Nick was killed and the night the witness says her gun went missing and Espinoza returned it. The witness said Espinoza told her he went into "some richer neighborhoods," but didn't give an explanation why.

She added, "He was just angry about his boy being locked up and that he had fired some rounds off of the gun." The witness also detailed refinancing her car to post bail for her then boyfriend Figueroa.

This comes just one day after investigators and a witness, who claims he was followed then shot at during one of the robbery attempts, testified. The witness says there were five people in the SUV. Adding it was the driver who fired, but couldn't positively identify Espinoza as the gunman.
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