The 19-year-old Santa Rosa man accused in a fatal gang-related stabbing on the grounds of Kawana Elementary School appeared in court Friday along with three co-defendants in a separate Contra Costa County homicide committed a year ago.
Raul Vega is being held for the Jan. 8 murder of Juan Carlos Angel-Esparza, 20, during an after-hours confrontation on the campus, as well as a Jan. 12, 2010 drive-by shooting of Vallejo musician Dewey Tucker, 24, who authorities said he had mistaken for a gang rival.
The shackled defendant smiled to someone in the large courtroom crowd as he was led by deputies to a seat, where he talked quietly with his lawyer, Kathleen Hernandez. His three co-defendants in the Tucker killing -- Christopher Mancinas, 29, Hector Barragan, 28, and Javier Ivan Carreon-Lopez, 20, all of Santa Rosa - sat in jailhouse uniforms nearby.
Judge Arthur Wick was expected to set a preliminary hearing date but he put that off until March 7 so both sides could have more time to review evidence in the two slayings. The preliminary hearing, to determine if a trial is warranted, could come up to 60 days after that.
When asked by Wick if he objected to the delay, Vega responded, "No."
Prosecutor Bob Waner said he was obtaining transcripts of witness depositions to distribute among the defense lawyers. Wick granted his motion that no documents be distributed to the defendants themselves, although he said the lawyers could discuss their contents.
So far, it appears the two killings will be tried as one case. Waner would not discuss why the cases are linked.
"They are appropriately joined," he said outside of court.
Some of the defense lawyers also declined to discuss the case. Gerald Villareal, who represents Carreon-Lopez, warned family members outside court not to talk about it during jail visits because all communications with prisoners is recorded.
Wick declined a request from The Press Democrat to photograph the defendants, saying it was opposed by defense lawyers.
According to Santa Rosa police, Vega and Angel-Esparza, both suspected of having gang ties, fought near a baseball field on the campus as at least three others stood by.
Angle-Esparza was stabbed and died from a direct wound to the heart. Vega was arrested the next day near a family home at Mayette and Yulupa avenues.
CHP officials said that about the same time, they were closing in on Vega as the possible shooter in the year-old killing of Tucker, who toured with hip-hop singer Lauryn Hill.
Charging documents in that slaying say the four men drove to Contra Costa County to seek out a rival who had threatened Barragan. They mistook Tucker for the rival and shot him as he drove on I-80.