Sosa Murder Trial, Day Five

Alleged Accessories to Murder Take the Stand

Sosa and defense attorney Doug Hayes.
Paul Wellman

The trial of Luis Sosa, the man accused of shooting and killing Frank “Pancho” Tacadena on September 13, 2006, continued its fifth day in court Friday with witness testimonies including the defendant’s uncle, Thomas Sosa, and Tacadena’s longtime friend Sonja Salazar, who also happens to be the girlfriend of a second man alleged to be involved in Tacadena’s murder.

The first witness to take the stand was a 16-year-old boy who was said to have seen Salazar’s boyfriend, Johnny Lopez, who Sosa’s attorney is alleging is the man who shot Tacadena, at the scene of the crime on West Islay Street. The witness recalled seeing a man wearing a black T-shirt with a bag that seemed to contain something. Prosecutor Hilary Dozer asked the boy if he believed the bag contained a gun and the boy said that he could not remember if he did at the time. However, the boy stated that he did recall seeing a woman come out of the apartment complex, then heard a man say, “There she is, that’s his wife,” referring to Tacadena’s wife.

Dozer asked the boy if he recalled hearing a gunshot after these events. In court, the witness could not recall whether it was a gunshot or if was his music that he heard, though according to police reports from 2006, the boy told the police he had in fact heard a gunshot. After being presented with individual photos of six men, the witness chose those with features most similar to the man he saw, but he could not identify the exact one he saw with the bag. The boy could not remember details of the event clearly, even at the time he was questioned two years ago by the police.

The next witness to take the stand was Dr. Robert Anthony, forensic pathologist for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Coroner Bureau, who performed the autopsy on Tacadena. Photos of Tacadena and the gunshot wound taken by crime scene investigators before and after the autopsy were presented to the jury. Anthony identified the wound as an apparent distant-range gunshot wound. “Apparent” would be the word in question during Anthony’s testimony.

Dozer questioned the nature of the gunshot and the gunshot residue found both on a gun satchel and Tacadena’s wound. Anthony told the court that the amount of residue on Tacadena’s wound could imply that the gun was shot from a distance of at least three or more feet. However, many factors could affect this such as barrel length, type of gun, and in this case, whether or not the gun was shot through the satchel that would later be identified by others as belonging to Lopez.

Dozer then called Las Vegas resident Thomas Sosa, Luis Sosa’s uncle, to the stand. He was given immunity for his testimony in court, meaning nothing he said could be used in a court proceeding where he will face charges against him for being an accessory to murder after-the-fact. Dozer had to subpoena Thomas as he “did not want to be here.” The witness said that he had grown up in Santa Barbara with Tacadena.

According to Thomas Sosa, with his permission, Luis stayed in Las Vegas with him after the shooting incident. Thomas Sosa said all he knew was that there were some altercations between a friend and Tacadena, and it was not until Thomas Sosa confronted his nephew that Luis Sosa admitted to shooting Tacadena.

Thomas Sosa said the reason his nephew gave for shooting Tacadena was because Tacadena had “disrespected” him. Thomas Sosa explained to the court that he then asked his nephew to leave as he “could not put up with him” being around his family. Luis Sosa did, prior to detectives arriving in Las Vegas, where they were told by Thomas Sosa that his nephew admitted to the shooting. Frail and hard of hearing, Thomas Sosa was accused by defense attorney Doug Hayes of perhaps not hearing his nephew correctly.

The last witness to take the stand Friday was Lopez’s girlfriend, Sonja Salazar. Dozer walked the court through Salazar’s day leading up to and after the shooting. According to Salazar, she was at work before returning to her apartment at lunch to find Sosa and Lopez there drinking. Salazar then took both men to a nearby deli to get more alcohol. Salazar said she dropped them off at the apartment and returned to work. She stated that she did not want to return home after work because she was irritated with Lopez’s drinking, which had been an ongoing problem. After receiving a phone call from Lopez asking her to take him to Ventura, she was hesitant, but decided to take him after Lopez expressed he was “in trouble.”

Salazar said she and Lopez then met Sosa and David Vega, Lopez’s cousin, at a gas station off of Mission Street. Salazar admitted to seeing a gun satchel-which she had previously seen at her and Lopez’s apartment-in the backseat of Vega’s car. Salazar stated that she had no idea about any shooting and that Lopez said nothing to her except that he “needed to think.”

After stopping at her mother’s home, they all went to Vega’s apartment where Vega, Sosa, and Lopez went to a room to talk by themselves. After this, Salazar said she drove herself, Lopez, and Sosa to see some friends in Ventura at a hotel, where they hung out with friends until returning to Vega’s apartment later that night.

Salazar’s testimony will continue Monday at 10 a.m.


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