4 arrested in robbery of Paso Robles man who was later shot to death

tstrickland@thetribunenews.comApril 24, 2013 

The ex-girlfriend of the Paso Robles man who was fatally shot Feb. 23 outside an apartment complex allegedly conspired to have him brutally attacked and robbed several months before his death, police said at a news conference Wednesday.

The allegation was one of several new revelations in the Paso Robles Police Department’s investigation into the killing of Victor Hugo Sanchez, 37.

Before Wednesday, little information had been released since his death. Police continue to investigate the killing and are looking into whether suspects in the assault and robbery incident were involved in Sanchez’s death.

Interim police Chief Robert Burton described the homicide as a crime that has “shocked” the Paso Robles community.

Paso Robles has seen increased gang activity in recent years, but on Wednesday, Lt. Ty Lewis told The Tribune, “We have nothing at this point to indicate the homicide was gang related.”

Sanchez’s niece, who asked not to be identified by The Tribune because of fear for her family’s safety, previously described his death as a “drive-by” and suggested that unknown assailants had threatened his life before.

While details of the alleged assault on Sanchez were brought to light Wednesday, police said they have made no arrests in the investigation of his murder, which took place on the 3100 block of Spring Street. Sanchez was shot multiple times. Police didn’t disclose any new details on what happened that night, what weapon was used or where on his body Sanchez was shot.

The suspects

The ex-girlfriend’s plot to assault Sanchez on Oct. 6 was allegedly planned and carried out by five people. It resulted this month in arrests as far away as Mexico and Georgia.

Police said four of the five suspects are in custody with one still at large in Mexico. The suspects are as follows:

• Crystal Lynn Garner, 26, and her boyfriend, Joseph Villarreal Jr., 24, both from Stockton. The two were already incarcerated in other counties on unrelated charges that police didn’t disclose Wednesday.

• Christine Lee Garner, 25, and her husband, David Rodriguez Hernandez, 37, both of Ceres. Christine Garner was booked at San Luis Obispo County Jail on April 18. As of Wednesday, she remained there on $250,000 bail and a parole hold. Rodriguez Hernandez is believed to be hiding in Mexico. Crystal and Christine Garner are sisters.

• Maria del Carmen Granados Fajardo, 49, of Paso Robles. She was arrested Wednesday in Fayetteville, Ga., where she awaits extradition to San Luis Obispo County. Police didn’t say why she was in Georgia.

Villarreal, Christine Garner and Granados Fajardo have been charged with conspiracy to commit robbery and assault with a deadly wea-pon, both felonies.

Crystal Garner’s charges are pending with the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office, Lewis said.

Christine Garner and Hernandez fled to Mexico shortly after the time of Sanchez’s murder, police said. Christine Garner was arrested by Mexican authorities and returned to the United States on April 17, while Hernandez is still believed to be hiding in Mexico. The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office is working with Mexican authorities to return him to the United States to book him on the assault and robbery charges.

The alleged assault

Police say Granados Fajardo “orchestrated and financed” the robbery and assault on Sanchez, whom she split with in a bitter breakup in mid-2012.

Her alleged plan was played out Oct. 6 when a woman, later identified as Crystal Garner, had a few drinks with Sanchez at a Paso Robles bar, police said.

The pair eventually drove in Sanchez’s car to the 100 block of Booker Road in Templeton, where Sanchez was assaulted with a crowbar and robbed of his wallet and car keys after an unknown number of assailants drove up, Lewis, the Paso Robles police lieutenant, read from a written statement Wednesday. Police didn’t say which suspects participated in the attack.

Nearby residents who overheard the commotion interrupted the assault, and the suspects, including the female from the bar, fled before San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s deputies arrived, Lewis said.

Sanchez, who suffered a broken arm and nose, reported the crime to the Sheriff’s Office.

He provided to sheriff’s detectives “key investigative details” that ultimately helped the Paso Robles Police Department identify two of the suspects, Crystal Garner and Villarreal.

Subsequent evidence, interviews and investigation led police to additional alleged co-conspirators, Christine Garner and Hernandez.

Meanwhile, further investigative work identified Granados Fajardo as the ringleader of the group who planned the attack, police said.

Police determined that Granados Fajardo knew the other suspects because she and Hernandez are related through a former marriage with Hernandez’s brother.

Police said no witnesses have come forward in the murder case, but officials believe witnesses exist.

They encourage anyone with information to call the Paso Robles Police Department.

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