MERCED - Accusations of unbridled greed, threats to abort an unborn baby
and a $5,000 hit on a man’s life.
Those details emerged Monday during a court appearance by three people
accused of murdering Alberto Rodriguez Macias, 40.
Macias’ wife, Laura Hernandez, 37, her son Erick Camarillo, 20, and
Edgar Garcia, 16, are accused of killing Macias on March 14 near Dos Palos.
A fourth suspect in the case, Hernandez’s 15-year-old daughter,
is being dealt with in juvenile court.
After testimony by Merced County sheriff’s detectives during Monday’s
preliminary hearing, Judge Ronald Hansen determined there was ample evidence
to try the trio for murder.
The most revealing part of the hearing came when Detective Mike Ruiz took
the stand, testifying about interviews between him and Garcia, the alleged
triggerman. During interviews with detectives, the teenager admitted killing
Macias, saying Hernandez offered him $5,000 to commit the killing. Garcia
told deputies Hernandez wanted her husband dead to reap the benefits of
nearly $1 million in life insurance policies — and she promised
to pay him the $5,000 from that money.
But there was more. Garcia also told detectives Hernandez’s daughter
had become pregnant, and Garcia’s believed to be the father. Hernandez
allegedly threatened to abort the baby if Garcia didn’t agree to
kill Macias (the baby was eventually born).
Garcia told detectives Hernandez gave him money to buy a gun, and he was
driven to the scene by Camarillo. Hernandez’s daughter was also
in the vehicle. Garcia wore gloves and entered the home, seeing Macias
asleep on a makeshift bed. Macias woke up, yelled and tried to get up,
but Garcia allegedly shot the victim three times.
Garcia told detectives he left through a bedroom window and ran back to
Camarillo’s vehicle. As they drove away, however, Hernandez’s
daughter and Camarillo questioned whether Macias was indeed dead. Camarillo
drove back to the scene and Garcia went back into the house to confirm
Macias had died.
Hernandez listened intently to testimony through a Spanish interpreter,
while Camarillo and Garcia sat straight-faced through much of the hearing.
Hernandez wept heavily for several moments, after hearing testimony from
Detective Ruiz, who said Hernandez’s daughter claimed during interviews
her mother “had never loved her.”
Detectives say Macias had been renovating the house at 7980 Azuza Road
the day of his death. Hernandez told investigators she’d been with
Macias that day and had gone next door to get food for him. She claimed
to have returned to the house, found his body and went back to the neighbor’s
home for help.
But sheriff’s investigators said Hernandez’s timeline didn’t
add up. Plus, they obtained text messages that appear to incriminate the
Chief Deputy District Attorney Harold Nutt said there’s other evidence
that didn’t come out in Monday’s preliminary hearing. “I
think we have the evidence to prove guilt on all three defendants,”
Jeffrey Tenenbaum, who’s defending Camarillo in the case, seriously questioned Detective
Ruiz about his client’s alleged involvement in the case. Tenenbaum
asked Ruiz whether there’s any evidence his client was present when
the murder happened, other than Garcia and the girl’s testimony.
Ruiz replied, “No.”
At the end of the hearing, Tenenbaum questioned whether the evidence presented
against his client is credible. “That certainly isn’t enough
to hold him for murder or conspiracy to commit murder,” Tenenbaum
told Hansen. Hansen disagreed, however, saying the testimony appears to
show a “higher degree of involvement” by Camarillo.
Garcia is being defended by attorney David Capron, while Hernandez is being
represented by deputy public defenders Chris Loethen and Paul Lyon.
The defendants are being held without bail on suspicion of murder and insurance
fraud. All have pleaded not guilty.