Witness: Santa Rosa parking lot slaying victim had money problems

A Santa Rosa man testified Wednesday he arranged a marijuana deal that left one person dead, saying he only wanted to help the victim resolve his financial problems.

Elias Alfaro testified that Jose Manuel de Jesus, 33, of Santa Rosa told him last fall that he needed to sell some pot to raise money. De Jesus intended to use the proceeds to help his family in Mexico and to throw a baptismal party, which he would videotape and show people back home, Alfaro said.

"That's what compelled him to seek easy money," Alfaro said through an interpreter.

So Alfaro testified he put de Jesus in touch with his friend, Juan Ramon Lopez-Castillo, 28, a clerk at a rural Todd Road butcher shop who met with de Jesus and arranged to buy about 10 pounds.

But de Jesus never got his money. On Oct. 6, his body was found in the trunk of a parked car outside Carniceria Contreras with a bullet in his head.

Police arrested Lopez-Castillo as well as his younger brother, alleged gunman Fernando Lopez-Castillo, 25, also of Santa Rosa. A cousin, Alberto Lopez-Barraza, 33, of Hayward, and fourth man, Jose Carraballo Mejias, 54, of Santa Rosa, also were held.

All are charged with first-degree murder and face life in prison without parole if convicted.

Alfaro was the first witness at a preliminary hearing to determine if there is enough evidence for a trial. Clad in a western shirt, green jeans and wearing a rodeo belt buckle, Alfaro seemed confused about the proceedings.

Alfaro testified that he met de Jesus seven years earlier when the two worked in the vineyards. Two months before the slaying, de Jesus told him he needed to sell pot to get money for his mother and brother, Alfaro said.

Just where the pot came from was not revealed.

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