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Trial in Healdsburg pot garden slaying delayed due to Forestville killings

Gary Freitas, left, a detective with the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office Violent Crimes Investigations, and Sonoma County Deputy Sheriff Bryan Jensen work at a crime scene on Mill Creek Road west of Healdsburg in 2011.

PD FILE, 2011
Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 1:32 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 1:32 p.m.

The trial of two Sonoma County men accused in a 2011 slaying at a Healdsburg pot garden was postponed Thursday because of publicity surrounding a triple homicide near Forestville this week that authorities said was tied to a marijuana sale.

Lawyers for Sidonio Cruz-Santos, 36, of Santa Rosa, and Augustin Zepeda-Onofre, 24, of Windsor said news accounts of Tuesday's slaying prevented their clients from getting a fair trial.

The issue was raised as both sides were picking a jury. Judge Gary Medvigy asked about 100 prospective jurors assembled in his courtroom how many had seen newspaper headlines about the latest killings. Many raised their hands.

He discharged the panel and reset the trial for late March.

Cruz-Santos and Zepeda-Onofre face life in prison if convicted in the October 2011 slaying of Gabino Lopez-Santiago, 46, at a pot garden near West Dry Creek Road.

The killing is alleged to have happened during a dispute among the men.

Their lawyers said that because the crime was set in a marijuana-growing operation, jurors might make an unfair comparison to the other killings involving pot.

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