Garrett Hunter: Killed in Grover Beach in 1998

Garrett Hunter, fatal shooting victim in a photo from the 1996 Arroyo Grande High Yearbook.
Garrett Hunter, fatal shooting victim in a photo from the 1996 Arroyo Grande High Yearbook.

Anthony Fiorella reportedly went after Garrett Hunter and his older brother Grant because the two tricked him into delivering a half-ounce of marijuana they had no intention of paying for, police reports state.

The Hunter brothers reportedly paged Fiorella the night before the Jan. 8, 1998 shooting to meet in Arroyo Grande for a drug deal, according to reports. The Hunter brothers and a friend were waiting in a green Mitsubishi at the park on Traffic Way when Fiorella pulled up around 12:30 a.m. in his white Volkswagen bug.

The Hunters reportedly claimed they had purchased pot from Fiorella in the past, but this time they planned to steal it from him, reports state.

Grant Hunter got out of the Mitsubishi and spoke briefly with Fiorella before Fiorella reportedly handed over a bag of pot. Grant Hunter then handed the bag to his younger brother, seated in the back seat of the car.

Fiorella asked for his money before Garrett Hunter allegedly told the driver to take off, reports show. Asked why the Hunters decided to "rip off" Fiorella, one witness told an investigator: "I don't know. He was easy, I guess."

They brothers later taunted Fiorella with a coded page -- 211-420-187 -- that Fiorella interpreted as saying, "We robbed your weed and we're going to kill you." Armed robbery in the state penal code is 211, while murder is 187. Marijuana users refer to 420 as a code for pot.

Fiorella responded with a page of his own: 187-666. The first part, he said, meant he intended to kill them, but he didn't directly answer questions about the 666, which can refer to Satanic rituals.

"I was just trying to scare them," Fiorella told investigators. Fiorella's younger brother, Joseph, is serving 26 years to life in prison for the ritualistic slaying in 1995 of 15-year-old Elyse Pahler near her former Nipomo Mesa home. "My brother, he done something," said Fiorella, "so I thought maybe they ( the Hunter brothers ) would be scared by threats, like, 'Oh, his brother did something. So maybe it runs in the family'.

Garrett Hunter was shot the next night outside Boston Market moments after his brother ran in to the restaurant to call 911. Grant Hunter told police he worked at the restaurant and was on a break around 8 p.m. when Fiorella pulled up in his mother's blue Ford Tempo.

He said he and his brother were smoking cigarettes near a pay phone when Fiorella got out of the car and pulled a shotgun out from the front seat. Grant Hunter said he ran to get back inside and shouted to his brother : "Get in the restaurant! Get in the restaurant!"

Grant Hunter said when he got inside he asked the manager to call police. He then heard a shot and heard his brother scream.

Grant Hunter was holding his brother when police arrived. Hunter's responses to police questions were followed by words of encouragement to his dying brother, according to a transcript of the taped interview.

"C'mon fool, don't die," Grant Hunter urged, to which Garrett Hunter replied: "I don't want to die."

Garrett Hunter told police that before Fiorella shot him, Fiorella ordered him to hand over his wallet "or he was gonna kill me," reports state.

At 12:35 a.m. that Friday morning, the Hunter family was advised by the attending physician there was nothing more they could do to stop Garrett's bleeding.

"Arrangements were made for the family to come to his bedside before he died," police reports state. "At 1:10 a.m., Garrett Hunter was pronounced dead."

Anthony Fiorella's friends described him as a "pothead" who "smoked marijuana on a daily basis" and "sold about $200 to $300 worth of marijuana a month" to supplement his income as a machine technician, according to Grover Beach police reports filed in county Municipal Court.

Hours after Fiorella killed Hunter, authorities seized suspected pot and an assortment of paraphernalia from Fiorella's bedroom, according to a search warrant report filed in court.

Among the items seized: 10 pipes, six bongs, two scales, three shopping bags and four baggies containing suspected marijuana. Authorities also seized 39 Polaroid photos of marijuana plants and other drug-related images, as well as a list of 27 names and phone numbers -- mostly pager numbers, according to reports.

While some friends described Fiorella as passive, others recalled uncharacteristic displays of violence in recent weeks, suggesting Fiorellawas losing control, reports show. Fiorella's mother, Betsy Leo, told the then Telegram-Tribune she believed her son "snapped" over recent home robberies and personal problems that came on the heels of his younger brother's arrest for murder in 1996.

Joseph Fiorella was sentenced to 26 years to life for the ritualistic slaying of 15-year-old Elyse Pahler near her former Nipomo Mesa home.

In the weeks leading up to the murder, Fiorella became increasingly angry, particularly after he told friends someone stole marijuana plants he had grown at his rural Arroyo Grande mobile home. Fiorella also said he'd been robbed several times of stereo equipment and other property.

In November 1997, he showed up to his ex-girlfriend's house and accused her of telling people where he lived so they could rob him, reports show. Fiorella reportedly told her he had a gun with him, and that he "was so upset about being ripped off that he thought about coming over to shoot her," reports show.

Police interviewed Fiorella's father, who said he doesn't have a close relationship with his son, according to District Attorney's reports. Joseph Fiorella, who lived in New York, told an investigator he hadn't heard from his son since he sent him $25 for a Christmas present.

Fiorella added he did not believe his son would surrender to police. "I asked him to explain this comment, and Mr. Fiorella stated that, since the arrest and subsequent conviction of Anthony's brother, Joe Fiorella, he (Mr. Fiorella) has had conversations with Anthony, wherein he was told by Anthony that if he were faced with the same circumstances (wanted by law enforcement), that he would flee the area and possibly the country."

Among the items seized during a Jan. 9 search of Anthony Fiorella's Lyn Road residence were two envelopes containing letters Joseph Fiorella had written to his brother from prison. Authorities also seized a note Anthony Fiorella had written to his mother after the shooting, stating he had her car and was heading to San Francisco.

After the shooting Fiorella fled the country in his mother's blue Ford Tempo. He said he dumped the murder weapon along an unknown highway after driving south "five or six" hours. He said he crossed the border into Mexico about 5 a.m. -- roughly 8 1/2 hours after confronting both Hunter and his older brother Grant outside Boston Market with a loaded shotgun.

Nearly a month later, Fiorella was found in San Felipe, Mexico.

In December 1998, he was convicted of first-degree murder. A judge later sentenced him to 50 years to life in prison.