Witness testifies suspect made threat moments before Fresno shooting

Kate Nemarich Image
Saturday, January 27, 2024
Witness testifies suspect made threat moments before Fresno shooting
It's been more than eight months since two men were found shot in the street in Central Fresno.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- It's been more than eight months since two men were found shot in the street in Central Fresno. One died and the other is waiting to find out if he'll stand trial. Friday, Montray Skinner appeared in court for the second day of his preliminary hearing.

Skinner is charged in the death of Nathaniel Casteneda on May 11, 2023, but the first 15 minutes of the preliminary hearing were spent discussing the witness expected to take the stand Friday morning and what she could or could not be questioned about and what protections she may have for her testimony.

Action News cannot show civilian witnesses' faces in the case.

The witness, Sylvia Zavala, has open cases against her and the defense had tried to question her about events months before the shooting. The judge ultimately ruled the witness could not be questioned about incidents other than the night of May 11th and that she would have to answer questions about the night of the shooting, including her drug use at the time.

Zavala is the sister-in-law of Casteneda and was said to be with him and her boyfriend at the time. She said she was under the influence of meth and wearing a motorcycle helmet when the shooting happened limiting her awareness of what was happening. However, she said she was able to clearly hear threats made by Skinner towards their group and that is when she said she grabbed a gun and gave it to Casteneda.

"At the time you went to go get that firearm, what were you feeling," asked prosecutor David Olmos.

"I feel I was threatened," said Zavala. "I just went into action; he threatened to shoot us all, so I was afraid."

Zavala said she had never met Skinner before that night. It was revealed in court that she had identified him through surveillance video of the incident.

Neither the prosecution nor the defense referred to Skinner by name when questioning Zavala about the shooting, only referring to him as "The African American Male," which led to a back and forth during the hearing.

"Can you point to where that person is seated and describe what he's wearing," asked Olmos.

"He's in a red jumpsuit, "said Zavala.

Amy Freitas, who is representing Skinner stepped in to clarify a few moments later.

"Just for the record, the person that you identified just now in court is the only African American male that you see in this courtroom currently, is that right," asked Amy Freitas, defense attorney.

"Correct," said Zavala.

Minutes later Olmos continued his questioning, reasserting the identification.

"And you saw one angle on White Street," said Olmos. "Did you see an African American male get shot in the eye, holding his left eye? Do you recall seeing that?"

"Yes," said Zavala.

"Okay, and as you sit here, do you see the defendant that you just pointed out," asked Olmos. "What do you see over his left eye?"

"An eye patch," said Zavala.

The preliminary hearing is expected to continue Monday morning and then it will be up to the judge to decide if there is enough evidence to try Skinner. He is charged with murder and attempted murder with gun enhancements and being a felon possessing a gun. He also has a prior strike that would be considered if he is tried.

For news updates, follow Kate Nemarich on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Related Topics