A preliminary hearing began last Friday for two alleged members of Santa Barbara’s Eastside gang charged in the February murder of Kelly Hunt. Joseph Castro, 20, and Isaac Jimenez, 23, were arrested in August and have been held in County Jail since then on charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and participation in a criminal street gang. Their bails were set at $1.1 million each.
During his testimony, Detective Brian Larson said Castro admitted to shooting Hunt soon after he was arrested. According to Larson, his interviews revealed the following: On the morning of the murder — February19 — Jimenez picked up Hunt from his Ventura home and drove to Santa Barbara. When they arrived, Jimenez asked Hunt to wait in his car as he entered Castro’s home. While inside, Jimenez allegedly told Castro that Hunt was threatening to kill Eastside gang members, and something had to be done about it. Hunt was a founding member of the Crazy Winos gang, a smaller group affiliated with the Ventura Midtown gang.
Detective Michael Claytor testified that Hunt was attending a fellow gangmember’s birthday party on the night of the murder. During interviews with the friend, Claytor stated, he said that he, Hunt, and a group of friends — including alleged murderers Castro and Jimenez — decided to walk to Ortega Park to play football. They later continued their stroll to Santa Barbara High School where they drank and smoked marijuana. After a while, Castro allegedly suggested they steal a car, and he left to do so with only Jimenez and Hunt in tow.
Hunt was reportedly pushing a bike alongside Castro, with Jimenez trailing slightly behind them, according to Larson’s interview with Castro. Castro then allegedly pulled a gun on Hunt and shot him four times: twice while he was standing, and twice more once he was on the ground. The defendants heard Hunt moan, “Homie, why? Homie,” as they walked away casually, so as not to appear suspicious.
When they returned to the friend’s home without Hunt, Castro allegedly began cleaning off his six-shooter revolver, to remove traces of DNA and fingerprints. The friend questioned him, and he responded, “Don’t worry” and that it “needed to happen.” According to Claytor, a revolver does not expend casings, and though a bullet was found by the body, no casings were discovered at the scene. Castro reportedly discarded the rest of his ammunition in random trashcans on their way home, and he gave the revolver to an unnamed gang member to be sold. The weapon has not been recovered.
In a subsequent interview with Det. Claytor, Jimenez said he and Hunt were best friends and that it made him very uncomfortable to discuss the murder. Though Jimenez admitted to being in Santa Barbara the night of the shooting, he claimed he had spent the entire night at his grandparents’, without leaving the premises. Jimenez also said the last time he had seen Hunt was two weeks prior to his murder.
After detectives showed up at his mother’s home for a follow-up interview, Jimenez fled, living in Sacramento briefly before crashing on an acquaintance’s couch in Long View, Washington. He was finally located and arrested there August 13, three weeks after he arrived.
Castro and Jimenez will be back in court October 22 for a procedural hearing. Their trial will begin at a later date.