Santa Rosa student,15, charged with manslaughter in fatal Montgomery High School stabbing
The 15-year-old Montgomery High School student suspected of killing a schoolmate during a March 1 fight inside a classroom was officially charged Monday with voluntary manslaughter.
Prosecutors said evidence reviewed so far appears to show the student, Daniel Jesus Pulido, acted at least partly in self-defense.
Pulido was identified Monday in open proceedings at Sonoma County Juvenile Court as well as in court documents filed in the case against him.
He will not be prosecuted as an adult. A 2019 state law that was upheld in 2021 by the California Surpreme Court prohibits 14- and 15-year-olds from being charged as adults, according to Sonoma County Assistant District Attorney Brian Staebell.
Pulido is charged with one count of voluntary manslaughter with an enhancement of using a deadly and dangerous weapon and one felony count of unlawfully bringing and possessing a weapon on school grounds, according to Sonoma County District Attorney Carla Rodriguez.
The charges stem from a fight inside an art class on the east Santa Rosa high school campus.
The victim, Jayden Pienta, 16, died from wounds suffered after an initial confrontation between students outside a classroom led to a fight inside, where the 15-year-old fought with a knife, stabbing Pienta once in the chest and twice in the back, police said.
A second 16-year-old boy was stabbed in his hand, police said.
Pulido, who fled campus, was arrested about 40 minutes later a mile north of campus, where police said he was found him hiding in a creek bed. The knife, described as a folding blade, up to 5 inches long, has not been recovered.
Staebell said prosecutors are pursuing a manslaughter charge rather than first or second degree murder charges based on reports that the 15-year-old was defending himself during the altercation.
However, Staebell said the killing wasn’t justified under the law.
“The law lays out certain mitigated factors that a court or jury would look at in making a decision on whether a homicide is a justified or lawful homicide,” Staebell said. “Perfect self defense or complete self defense means it’s a lawful killing. Imperfect self defense means there’s a mitigating factor that contributed to the homicide but doesn’t justify the killing.
“There was some action taken on the part of the victim that did mitigate the actions by the minor that we charged, but that we concluded did not rise to the level of complete self defense,” he said.
The charging document states Pulido “unlawfully, and without malice” killed Pienta “upon a sudden quarrel and heat of passion.” The petition did not provide additional details about what investigators believe led to the altercation.
Staebell declined to comment further on the case or what evidence has been presented, saying that additional details would “be conveyed in court at the appropriate time.”
Pulido remains in custody at the county’s juvenile justice facility and will next appear in court on Friday for a detention hearing where a judge will determine whether to release him.
Juvenile court cases in California involving homicide, rape, arson and other violent offenses are required to be open to the public.
Attempts to reach Pulido’s family and private attorneys representing him were not immediately successful on Monday.
Santa Rosa Police meanwhile continue to interview witnesses and review footage of the altercation, department spokesperson Sgt. Chris Mahurin said.
Investigators are also trying to identify if there was a history of prior disputes between the students and are working with school administrators to determine if any previous incidents were reported to school officials.
Mahurin said this could help investigators determine what led to the fatal March 1 fight.
Mahurin said nothing linking the three students had previously been reported to police and said none of the involved students had significant law enforcement contacts with Santa Rosa police in the past.
Police interviewed the 15-year-old with an attorney present following his arrest but Mahurin could not comment on the interview.
You can reach Staff Writer Paulina Pineda at 707-521-5268 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @paulinapineda22.