Two days after her ex-boyfriend was badly beaten with a tire iron, a prosecutor told jurors Monday, the scorned woman who commissioned the attack told her co-conspirators she wanted him injured even worse.
In what Deputy District Attorney Craig Van Rooyen called “a crazy story of jealousy, manipulation and, finally, murder,” Maria del Carmen Granados Fajardo, 51, of Paso Robles, is on trial for murder after the second of two hits-for-hire allegedly left 37-year-old Victor Sanchez with a bullet to the head.
“She was the mind, if you will, behind the madness in both of these crimes,” Van Rooyen said.
But, during his opening statement to the jurors, Fajardo’s attorney, Paul Phillips, questioned the prosecution’s lead witness, saying she is a drug user and a felon who brokered a plea deal in exchange for her testimony.
“She has a motive to testify the way she’s going to testify,” Phillips said.
During his opening statement, Van Rooyen laid out the prosecution case, showing jurors photos of Sanchez in life and in death.
After launching a soccer league to keep kids off the streets in Paso Robles, Sanchez met Fajardo, whose two sons played soccer in the league. The two dated and lived with each other for about 10 years.
During the relationship, Van Rooyan said, Fajardo complained about Sanchez’s drinking and accused him of seeing other women.
After he moved out in 2012, Fajardo allegedly began to stalk him. In June 2012, she filed a restraining order against Sanchez, saying he abused alcohol daily, became angry and abused her both emotionally and sexually.
Fajardo also sued Sanchez, saying he owed her money, though he was rewarded more than $7,000 in a countersuit.
Increasingly angry, Van Rooyen said, Fajardo contacted her former brother-in-law, David Hernandez, 38, and hatched a plan to injure Sanchez. Also involved in the plot were Hernandez’s wife, Christine Garner, 26; her sister, Crystal Garner, 28; and Crystal Garner’s boyfriend, Joseph Villarreal Jr., 26.
After Crystal Garner lured Sanchez to a bar and then invited him to have sex with her, she pulled his car to the side of the road so Villarreal could beat Sanchez with a tire iron, Van Rooyen said. Sanchez suffered numerous cuts and a broken arm during the incident.
Two days later, Fajardo allegedly drove to Ceres, where Christine Garner and Hernandez lived.
“The defendant said Victor Sanchez wasn’t hurt badly enough" and needed to be permanently handicapped, Van Rooyen said.
A second plot was hatched, this one employing three Modesto teens who were hired in February 2013 to kidnap Sanchez and shoot his kneecaps, Van Rooyen said. Instead, one of the teens, 19-year-old Edgar Ontiveros, fatally shot him in front of Sanchez’s Paso Robles apartment complex, police say.
After receiving a phone call from the teens, Hernandez turned to his wife and announced, “It’s done," Van Rooyen said.
While Christine Garner and Villarreal are expected to testify for the prosecution, Phillips said Garner has had “many stories” about what happened.
It was Christine Garner’s idea, Phillips said, to try to frame Sanchez by planting a sawed-off shotgun and fake drugs in his car. And she was a participant in both attacks, agreeing to testify in lieu of a plea bargain, he said.
“The evidence will show a lot of things, but it’s not going to show that Ms. Fajardo was anywhere near where this happened,” Phillips said, adding that Fajardo willingly spoke to law enforcement after the murder while several other suspects, including Christine Garner, fled.
Van Rooyen agreed Christine Garner was a drug user who had been in trouble with the law. But, he said, her statements will be corroborated by surveillance videos and Fajardo’s cellphone records, which offer incriminating evidence as to Fajardo’s whereabouts during the attacks.
During witness testimony, Van Rooyen suggested Fajardo made her living by providing loans with interest. Sanchez was a construction worker.
Villarreal and Crystal Garner have previously been convicted and sentenced for crimes related to the first attack. Law enforcement has not been able to locate Hernandez and the three Modesto suspects: Ontiveros, Louis Henry Madrigal, 20, and Alejandro Anguiano, 20.