The judge heard from three witnesses and ultimately ruled there was enough evidence to proceed with the murder charge.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A day of back-and-forth closed-door negotiations led to a tense moment in court on Wednesday as an accused murderer rejected a plea deal.
"Depending on the evidence, you may be convicted of first-degree murder," said a Fresno County judge.
Prosecutors say Rolando Sanchez used his car to hit and kill Jaime Loza near Carmel and Morro Avenues in Del Rey back in March.
The 55-year-old now faces a murder charge for the incident.
He was in court Wednesday for a procedural step, where the judge has to rule if there's even enough evidence to proceed with the case.
The judge was ready to get started at 10:30 am, but there were several delays.
The hearing finally got underway nearly three hours late.
"The people offered Mr. Sanchez to plead to an amended count one," said Sanchez's public defender.
Sanchez could've pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter and admitted to previous incidents.
He rejected that deal after thinking it over during the 90-minute lunchtime recess.
The trade-off and implications were so great that the judge tried her best to break down the offer one more time.
"You're looking at somewhere in the range of 61 or 62 years to life as it's plead. They're making you an offer of 17 years," said the judge.
When Sanchez said he wanted more time to think everything through with his family and public defender, the judge suggested he return on Thursday morning.
The deputy district attorney disagreed. She said it was too late, and the deal was off the table.
"The People are unwilling to extend or keep that offer open and continue the preliminary hearing until tomorrow morning. Is that correct?" asked the judge.
"That is correct, your honor. I have witnesses who have been here since this morning, who have jobs," replied the deputy district attorney.
The judge said there was nothing she could do to make the DA's office keep that deal open, and the preliminary hearing got underway moments later.
She heard from three witnesses and ultimately ruled there was enough evidence to proceed with the murder charge.