The death of 15-year-old Emmanuel Roldan on July 4, 2008, just before the start of the fireworks show on East Beach, was the very public culmination of an 18-month span in which three Santa Barbara teenagers were killed — all from stab wounds sustained during what authorities said were gang-related attacks.
Since that day, the three cases slowly made their way through Santa Barbara’s criminal justice system, and one by one, those accused to have been involved in the deadly encounters were sent to prison.
A jury found 14-year-old Ricardo Juarez guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the 2007 death of 15-year-old Luis Angel Linares. Juarez was sentenced in 2009 to 17 years in state prison. A court of appeal late last year recently upheld the verdict. It took two jury trials to convict Ruben Mize and Bryan Medinilla of first degree murder and Ricardo Nava and Raul Diaz, Jr. of second degree murder in the July 17, 2007 attack of 16-year-old Lorenzo Carachure, who died on San Pascual Street. All four are currently appealing that verdict.
But the Fourth of July stabbing trial won’t make it in front of a jury. Tuesday afternoon, before Judge Brian Hill, the quartet implicated in Roldan’s death changed their plea from not guilty to a murder charge to a no contest plea to a voluntary manslaughter charge.
While the two previous incidents were highly publicized and sadly involved young teens, Roldan’s death was perhaps even more tragic, given that murder charges were filed against his older brother, then 17-year-old David Roldan.
Sentencing is scheduled for May 1. On that day, Victor Arroyo will be sentenced to 17 years in state prison; David Roldan, 11 years; Daniel Cervantes, 13 years; and Miguel Marquez, 16 years. In addition to the manslaughter charge, the four also admitted to allegations that they are gang members and will have to register as such. Arroyo and Marquez also pleaded to felony charges of street terrorism and admitted the killing was committed in association with the Westside criminal street gang. Arroyo’s plea includes an admission of personal use of a knife along with a gang enhancement.
Arroyo is alleged to have been most culpable. According to testimony at a preliminary hearing, Det. Kenneth Kushner said Arroyo told him it was possible he could have stabbed the victim. He admitted earlier in the interview he had tried to stab an Eastside gang member. It is alleged that the four defendants were members of the Westside gang. All but Marquez were minors at the time of their arrest.
The killing came in the midst of a large brawl near the waterfront, prior to the Fourth of July fireworks show. Police were first called just before 9 p.m. to a rumble of 30 to 35 people. Not long after, police discovered a 15-year-old had been stabbed, and just after that, Roldan was stabbed in the 200 block of Cabrillo Blvd. He was taken to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, but died from his injuries. A third teenager with stab wounds was also taken to the hospital by his parents, according to Independent news reports at the time.
Since that day, three more alleged gang-related murders have occurred, all three attacks on people authorities say were not involved in gangs: Baldemar Leal was killed on the Westside in February 2009, Robert Simpson was stabbed to death at Hendry’s Beach in April 2010, and George Ied was beaten to death while walking home from work in October 2010. The suspects in all of those cases are awaiting trial.