Total of eight now in custody; detectives believe suspects are members or affiliates of gang.
GUSTINE - Four more men are in custody for allegedly being involved in the fatal Nov. 6 stabbing of 33-year-old Bill James at a Gustine bar.
That brings the total number of jailed suspects in the case to eight.
Suspects Rafael Valdez, 26, Anthony Oseguera, 24, and Albert Aleman, 36, were arrested separately at various Southern California locations in December and late November, according to Detective Lane Clark of the Merced County Sheriff’s Department’s Major Crimes Unit.
Suspect Brandon Carvalho, 30, was recently arrested in the San Jose area by deputies with the Santa Clara Sheriff’s Department, Clark said.
All four have since been sent to Merced County and are being held on murder charges with gang enhancements.
Attorneys for some of the men who were able to be contacted denied their clients’ involvement in the fatal incident.
A ninth suspect in the case, 19-year-old Andrew Silva, remains at-large. Silva is believed to be living in the Los Angeles area, Clark said. Several of the suspects are believed to be either cousins or other blood relatives.
Witnesses told sheriff’s investigators James was stabbed by members of the Mongols, an outlaw motorcycle gang with chapters spanning the globe, according to a sheriff’s report. Although detectives believe the suspects are members or affiliates of the gang, they have no indication that James was gang-affiliated.
The other suspects in the case, Ruben Silva, 22, David Silva, 23, Mark Oseguera, 24, and Richard Naudin, 30, were arrested in mid-November in Southern California. Of the eight suspects, Mark Oseguera, Rafael Valdez and Anthony Oseguera are still awaiting arraignment. The others have pleaded not guilty to the charges and have denied involvement.
Deputy District Attorney David Elgin said he filed a motion Wednesday to consolidate the numerous court cases involving eight suspects into one case. Elgin said some of the suspects’ cases are separate because they were arrested at different times.
Clark said at least two of the eight suspects are believed to have actually stabbed James, while the others were there when the killing happened. Clark declined to name the two alleged stabbers.
James died after being stabbed at the Gustine Club at 431 Fifth St. The stabbing was reported around 11:30 p.m., and the victim was found in the street outside the bar.
Sheriff’s investigators believe eight to 10 men walked into the bar. A fight erupted after the suspects approached the victim. During the melee, one of the suspects sprayed bar patrons with a can of either Mace or pepper spray, according to detectives.
The suspects stabbed James numerous times, detectives said, and the fight spilled out into the street. James was stabbed again and collapsed. Shortly afterward, he was pronounced dead at Memorial Hospital Los Banos, detectives said.
According to a sheriff’s report, investigators have video footage from a bar near the crime scene, which places several of the suspects in the area the night of the killing. Not long before the stabbing at the Gustine Club, detectives believe the suspects went to the Pastime Club, another Fifth Street bar.
The video from the Pastime Club clearly shows a group of Mongols bikers, some wearing clothing identifying them as members of the gang, according to the report. Detectives showed the video to witnesses, and at least one person said all the Mongols in the video were involved in James’ killing at the Gustine Club.
The report also states that members of the Mongols had booked every room of a Santa Nella hotel the weekend of the homicide. The hotel staff had even abandoned the business out of fear of the gang, the report continued.
Several attorneys for the eight suspects, however, said their clients deny the charges and claim innocence.
For example, John Garcia, the attorney for David Silva, said he viewed the video footage from the Pastime Club — and his client isn’t visible in the footage. “We’re absolutely denying all the charges. I don’t think the evidence is going to be able to prove that he was even there,” Garcia said. “My client is certainly innocent of any wrongdoing in this.”
Jeffrey Tenenbaum, the attorney for Rafael Valdez, said his client also maintains his innocence. “At this point, he denies all involvement, and we look forward to presenting our defense in court,” Tenenbaum said.
All eight men remain at the jail, each with a bail of more than $1 million.