One day after he rejected an offer from prosecutors to settle his case for lesser charges, testimony continued Tuesday against a former Cloverdale vineyard foreman accused of killing his cousin in a dispute over drugs.
Augustin Alvarez-Pe?, 42, is charged with murder and possession of marijuana for sale in the Oct. 16, 2009 slaying of Santos Alvarez, 24, at the Cooley Lane ranch where they both worked.
After a week of trial, prosecutors on Monday offered to settle the case for his plea to manslaughter and use of a gun, which carries a 16-year sentence. He faces more than 50 years-to-life if convicted as charged.
But Alvarez-Pe? refused to take the deal. His lawyer, Keith Faulder, wouldn't say why. He's expected to discuss any defense in opening arguments he's postponed to the second half of the trial.
Prosecutor Jason Riehl also would not talk about the proposed settlement.
On Tuesday, Faulder cross-examined the prosecution's chief witness, vineyard manager Brett Domenichelli, who was present at the slaying.
Faulder grilled Domenichelli about his inability to remember details about statements he made to police, some more than four years ago.
The ranch boss has maintained that he drove up to the property the day of the shooting to find the cousins locked in a heated argument about pot they planned to sell. Santos Alvarez had accused the elder man of short-changing him on his cut of numerous bags of dried marijuana spread out on a barn floor.
At one point, Domenichelli said Santos Alvarez called his cousin's mother a "whore" and pushed him in the face. The defendant then pulled a gun from his waistband and fired at him twice, he said.
A mortally wounded Santos Alvarez staggered off. Fearing he would be shot next, Domenichelli lunged at his foreman, eventually wrestling the gun from his hand, he said.
"I'm screaming at him, 'Let it go,'" Domenichelli testified. "And he just opens up his hand."
Alvarez-Pe? fled when Domenichelli ran into the barn to call police.
Deputies searched his Potter Valley home and found evidence that he had family in Mexico. Believing he might leave the country, they released bulletins describing the make and model of his car. But the case went cold.
He remained at large until last year, when detectives received information that he had been arrested in Jalisco, Mexico. He was extradited in September and arraigned on murder and drug charges.
Alvarez-Pe? wore a gray dress shirt Tuesday as he listened to his ex-boss's testimony through an interpreter.
Domenichelli said Alvarez-Pe? worked for him for 10 years and supervised other employees on the 170-acre ranch he leased on Cooley Lane, just north of Cloverdale.
You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.