Trial begin in '05 Santa Rosa slaying
Published: Tuesday, September 29, 2009 at 7:53 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 29, 2009 at 7:53 p.m.
Opening statements began Tuesday in the trial of a Santa Rosa man accused of murder in the slaying a man more than 4 years ago in a dispute over drug sales turf.
Omar Chavez, 26, faces three felony counts with gang enhancements in the Jan. 15, 2005 shooting death of Semere Haile Girmai, also of Santa Rosa, at a Hoen Avenue apartment.
Prosecutor Traci Carrillo told members of the jury that Chavez had Girmai executed after the 27-year-old disrespected him and stepped on his toes. Following the killing, Chavez fled to Florida where he was arrested in 2007, Carrillo said.
The shooter, identified by authorities as Ricardo Puentes, remains at large.
“Mr. Chavez got his muscle, his friend, to execute Semere Girmai," Carrillo said, showing jurors a crime scene photograph of the victim bent backwards over a kitchen chair.
Defense attorney Erik Babcock said Chavez had nothing to with the death. He said Chavez went with Puentes to the apartment to talk to Girmai about their differences and was surprised when the shooting started. He said the two had been friends.
“This wasn’t some sort of gang hit,” Babcok said. “This is Ricardo Puentes killing Semere Girmai on his own.”
The trial continues Wednesday.
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