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Hearing set for murder suspect

A preliminary hearing has been set for later this month for a suspected getaway driver in a fatal June shooting.

 

During his arraignment, Adam Diaz, 24, was ordered by Judge Dale J. Blea to return to Madera County Superior Court on Aug. 19 for the hearing.

 

Diaz was originally set for arraignment Tuesday, but chose to postpone the matter for 24 hours, as his attorney, Melissa Sahatjian, was not able to make it into court that day. Attorney Craig Collins provided counsel for Diaz in Sahatjian’s absence Tuesday.

 

Collins is representing Diaz’s suspected accomplice, Andrew Chavez, 21, of Madera.

 

Diaz was arrested Aug. 5 during a traffic stop in the 1500 block of Cleveland Avenue for his suspected involvement in the murder of Michael Sanchez, 35, of Los Banos. The arrest was made by Madera Police Department detectives and members of its Special Investigations Unit.

 

“He was aware of what was going to happen. He was not the trigger man, but was just as implicit in the killing,” said police Sgt. Josiah Arnold. “Hundreds, if not thousands of hours of went into this investigation.”

 

Police Lt. Brian Esteves said the shooting, which occurred on 11th Street and Gateway Drive early on June 26, was gang-related and the result of mistaken identity. “Apparently, he was wearing the wrong colors – the colors of the rival gang,” Esteves said.

 

Despite the colors he was wearing, however, Sanchez was actually a member of the same gang as Diaz and Chavez, and was in Madera to visit family.

 

Sanchez is believed to have been walking home from Mr. D’s Bar and Grill when Diaz and Chavez allegedly attacked. Chavez reportedly opened fire, shooting multiple rounds, of which only one struck Sanchez, killing him. Sanchez’s body was found several hours later in the parking lot where he had died.

 

On June 29, SIU officers arrested Chavez, who remains in county jail. He has been ordered by  Judge James Oakley to return to court on Aug. 22 for his preliminary hearing, and for his trial for violating probation.

 

Diaz will face charges of murder, and committing a crime in furtherance of a street gang, according to Arnold. If convicted in the murder, Diaz and Chavez will face life in prison without the possibility of parole.