The fatal stabbing Wednesday of a 38-year-old man on Slater Street in Santa Rosa occurred in front of his 8- and 2-year-old daughters.
The two suspects, who are brothers, were arrested Thursday in Modesto after a statewide manhunt, and transported back to Santa Rosa, where they were booked into the Sonoma County Jail on suspicion of murder.
Shaun Avila was killed about 7:45 p.m. in the 1200 block of Slater Street, in front of an apartment shared, in addition to others, by two women who are the mothers of two of Avila’s three daughters.
Johnny Martinez, 20, and his brother Gabriel Cardin Heredia, 25, both of Santa Rosa, are suspected of stabbing and killing Avila, said Santa Rosa police Sgt. Josh Ludtke.
Avila was brought to Kaiser Hospital by his 19-year-old stepdaughter Jaden Martinez, who witnessed the fight, and her former boyfriend.
Avila was later transferred the Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital where he died, Ludtke said.
Police said the incident stemmed from “bad blood” over a previous relationship Avila had with the mother of his 2-year-daughter, the same woman who has been Johnny Martinez’s girlfriend for the past five months.
The woman was at work at the time of the incident. Her name has been withheld and she could not be reached for comment.
She lives in the Slater Street apartment along with Avila’s ex-wife, Jaden Martinez, and the two girls, 8 and 2.
“It’s complicated,” Jaden Martinez said. “When the police were on the scene they kept asking ‘Wait, what? Who’s related to who?’ ”
On Wednesday night, the brothers and Avila hadn’t expected to see each other, she said. Jaden Martinez, who’s not related to the suspect, said during the past five months Johnny Martinez and Avila have had multiple disputes.
Avila, who lives elsewhere in Santa Rosa, his stepdaughter and her former boyfriend were on their way to see a movie, Jaden Martinez said. When they pulled out of the apartment complex they spotted Johnny Martinez and Heredia sitting in a car on Slater Street.
The two had dropped off a woman at Jaden Martinez’s home to pick up something, she said. They weren’t aware Avila was there.
“Shaun (Avila) had a few drinks and they didn’t like each other,” Jaden Martinez said. “He started mouthing off when he saw Johnny (Martinez).”
Johnny Martinez and Avila both got out of their vehicles and took swings at each other in the middle of the street, she said. Johnny Martinez got back into his SUV, but Avila continued yelling at him and kicked the vehicle’s doors.
Johnny Martinez and his brother both got out of the SUV and began punching Avila, Jaden Martinez said. At some point, one or both of them stabbed him, she said, and kicked him when he fell to the ground.
Jaden Martinez said she could not see how many times and where Avila was stabbed. But when the brothers fled, Avila lay bleeding heavily from the right side of his abdomen.
Ludtke said the fight was caught on cellphone video and there were multiple witnesses.
Jaden Martinez said Avila’s 8-year-old daughter is having difficulty processing her father’s death.