A jury on Friday found ex-Marine Arturo Herrera, 31, of Lompoc, guilty of murdering his younger brother Enrique Herrera in their home last summer. He now faces 26 years to life in prison. 

In addition to Arturo's first-degree murder charge, the Santa Barbara County jury also found the special allegation -- use of a deadly weapon to commit the crime -- to be true, despite the fact that authorities never did find the murder weapon.

Arturo is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 11. His attorney, Sydney Bennett, requested and was granted a hearing for next Wednesday, to set another date for what will likely be a motion for retrial. 

The case went to the hands of the jury Monday afternoon after nearly a month of testimony in Judge Gustavo Lavayen's courtroom in Santa Maria. 

Once the verdict came in Friday morning, all 12 jurors affirmed their guilty verdicts as the clerk polled them one by one. 

Meanwhile, Arturo's mother sat quietly, staring at each juror as they answered "yes" to the question of her son's guilt. Another woman, who sat behind Arturo's mother, uncontrollably wept. 

Prior to the verdict, Senior Deputy District Attorney Brandon Jebens asked the judge to have Arturo's mother "refrain from an emotional outburst," alluding to an incident Monday afternoon, during which she reportedly yelled at jurors that "there is another killer out there."

Arturo's mother agreed to keep calm and refrain from lashing out, per the judge's orders. 

"I think the jury came back with the right verdict," Jebens said after the verdict was read. "I think all the evidence shows that Arturo was guilty. Obviously, [the jurors] took this [case] very seriously and deliberated, worked on it, and they came to the right decision." 

The jury reportedly was still split on its verdict Thursday afternoon but was ordered to continue deliberating, according to the prosecution, before finally coming to a unanimous agreement Friday morning.

Arturo's attorney expressed her disappointment after Friday's verdict. 

"On behalf of the entire defense team and the Herrera family, we wish to express our extreme sadness and disappointment in the verdict issued today," Bennett said. 

"While we all have the deepest respect for the American criminal jury system, we believe that the system only works when both our state and federal constitutions are followed. The public defender is pursuing all avenues of appeal in this case as we firmly believe in Mr. Herrera's innocence." 

On the afternoon of July 4, 2016, first responders were dispatched to the 4300 block of West Ocean Avenue, after Arturo called 911, claiming that his brother was hurt. Upon arrival, officers found Arturo's younger brother, 28-year-old Enrique, bloodied and lifeless on his bed, with blood splattered all over the wall in front of him. Blood was also found on Enrique's bedroom floor and door handle. 

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Testimony revealed that the boys' mother was away at work at the time of the murder. Nobody else lived at the home, and there were no visible signs of forced entry.

Autopsy reports showed Enrique died of severe blunt force head trauma. A forensic pathologist testified that he suffered between seven to 15 blows to the head. 

Upon questioning, Arturo told detectives he went to bed shortly after midnight July 4, although a forensic cellphone analysis report revealed that he actually was up past 3 a.m. that day, accessing a video depicting a man being killed after a large stone was thrown at his head. 

Arturo also told detectives that he had slept until 1 p.m., awoke to dogs barking, got up and saw his dead brother on his bed then called 911. However, more cellphone analysis showed that he had actually been awake before 10 a.m., as he logged into his Yahoo account. There was no activity detected on his phone from 10 a.m. until about 1 p.m., when Arturo called 911.

Testimony also revealed that Enrique and Arturo got into a fight a few years ago at a Lompoc bar, which soured the pair's relationship, the prosecution argued during the trial. 

After Arturo was booked into custody on suspicion of murder, a jailhouse informant was placed in another cell next to him, who secretly recorded their conversation.

It was during that conversation Arturo indicated that he didn't believe the authorities would ever find the murder weapon, and confirmed that the victim wasn't a female.

Gina Kim covers crime and courts for Santa Maria Times. Follow her on Twitter @gina_k210


Courts/Public Safety Reporter