Murder suspects to stand for trial
A case involving two suspects accused of fatally shooting a fellow gang member will go to trial, according to Madera County Superior Court records.
At a confirmation setting, suspects Andrew Chavez, 21, and Adam Diaz, 24, were ordered to return to court for a trial setting Friday. The setting will be presided over by Judge Dale J. Blea.
Chavez and Diaz were arrested for the murder of Michael Sanchez, 35, of Los Banos.
According to Madera Police Lt. Brian Esteves, the shooting that occurred at 11th Street and Gateway Drive on June 26 was gang-related, and was the result of a case of mistaken identity.
“Apparently, he was wearing the wrong colors, of the rival gang,” Esteves said.
Despite the colors he was wearing, however, Sanchez was a member of the same gang as Chavez and Diaz.
Sanchez, who was in town to visit family, was believed to be walking home from Mr. D’s Bar and Grill at 427 S. Gateway Drive. It was during the walk home that 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.
Chavez was arrested by officers of the Special Investigations Unit on June 29 in the Bolero Parking Lot on Yosemite Avenue. Diaz was apprehended on Aug. 5 at a traffic stop in the 1500 block of Cleveland Avenue, 41 days after the shooting took place. Diaz reportedly acted as getaway driver for Chavez.
“He was aware of what was going to happen. He was not the trigger man, but was just as implicit in the killing,” said Madera Police Sgt. Josiah Arnold. “Hundreds, if not thousands, of hours went into this investigation.”
Diaz’s mother, Isabella Walter, was also arrested. She pled guilty in September to resisting, obstructing, or delaying an officer, and was sentenced by Madera County Judge Charles Wieland to two years of informal probation with time served for the misdemeanor.
“The facts are, when the police asked her about (Diaz) being in a certain car, at some point, she said he wasn’t in that car,” said Walter’s attorney, Jennifer Dana. “And then the next day, or later, that day, she told them that he was, in fact, in that car. There wasn’t a tremendous delay in their work.”
Chavez and Diaz both face murder charges with gang enhancements, and could face life in prison without parole if convicted.