3 alleged gang members enter pleas in killing of Oceano man

Three alleged members of the South County street gang Oceano 13 accused of shooting to death 41-year-old Daniel Fuentes Sr. in April entered pleas in their cases Thursday after more than a month of delays in the case.

Brothers Robert and Gabriel Garay of San Luis Obispo and Nathaniel Jara of Avila Beach appeared in San Luis Obispo Superior Court Thursday morning to enter not guilty pleas to charges of murder and several sentencing enhancements for having allegedly committed a killing to benefit a street gang.

The arraignment had been postponed twice since the trio was first charged in August.

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From left, Nathaniel Jara, Gabriel Garay and Robert Garay are accused of killing Daniel Fuentes Sr. of Oceano in April 2019.

Each are accused of first-degree, premeditated murder for the shooting death of Fuentes in Oceano, as well as a felony charge of street terrorism for “unlawfully and actively (participating) in a criminal street gang, to wit, Oceano 13, with knowledge that its members engage in and have engaged in a pattern of criminal gang activity and did promote, further, or assist in felony criminal conduct by gang members,” according to the complaint.

Each are being held in San Luis Obispo County Jail without bail.

Before accepting their pleas Thursday morning, Superior Court Judge Dodie Harman indicated the case will be transferred to the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Jesse Marino for the remainder of proceedings.

Harman rejected an oral motion by the attorneys for all three defendants seeking to once again postpone entering pleas until the case is transferred to Marino’s courtroom.

Harold Mesick, attorney for Gabriel Garay, declined to comment on the case when reached by phone following the hearing.

Paul Phillips, representing Jara, and R. Thomas Allen, representing Robert Garay, could not immediately be reached for comment.

A pre-preliminary court hearing is scheduled for Nov. 5.

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Daniel Fuentes Sr., 41, died early April 3, 2019, inside the home of a neighbor after he was shot in the 2200 block of Beach Street in Oceano. SLO County Sheriff's Office

Fuentes was found dead early on the morning of April 3 inside the home of a neighbor after he knocked on the door and told the residents inside that he had been shot, the Sheriff’s Office said.

The District Attorney’s Office complaint says that Robert Garay was the actual shooter.

Jara and Gabriel Garay, both 21, and Robert Garay, 28, were already in San Luis Obispo County Jail on separate, unrelated cases when they were re-arrested in August on suspicion of Fuentes’ murder.

The arrests, announced at a news conference at the Sheriff’s Office, were the result of a four-month investigation that included information provided by the public, Sheriff Ian Parkinson previously said.

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Matt Fountain is The San Luis Obispo Tribune’s courts and investigations reporter. A San Diego native, Fountain graduated from Cal Poly’s journalism department in 2009 and cut his teeth at the San Luis Obispo New Times before joining The Tribune as a crime and breaking news reporter in 2014.