Couple charged in Orcutt shooting appears in court

Highley, left, and Perez 

Arraignment for the couple charged in connection with a fatal shooting that killed Anthony "Tony" San Juan at Elmer's bar in Orcutt was continued Wednesday to next month due to a large amount of incoming evidence, including 130 police reports, audio recordings and photographs. No pleas were entered.  

Jonathan David Highley, 35, is charged with murder and also faces a special firearm allegation -- personal and intentional discharge of a firearm to cause death/great bodily injury to the victim. Highley also faces count two of assaulting a second victim, Jane Doe, with a firearm. 

Highley's wife Mayra Perez, 29, is charged with being an accessory after the fact. It was revealed during her bail reduction hearing last month that Perez is an undocumented immigrant. 

Highley appeared Wednesday morning with Deputy Public Defender Brian Carroll, who stood in for Mark Owens during the hearing. David Bixby is representing Perez, with Deputy District Attorney Anne Nudson prosecuting the case.

The case was continued to May 24 after both attorneys requested a continuance due to the large amounts of evidence still pouring in. Nudson also noted there was a pre-plea report filed for Perez. 

A pre-plea report, prepared by the Probation Department, looks at the facts of the case, history of the defendant, input from the parties involved, and is presented to a judge. In that report, probation also recommends what they believe would be an appropriate sentence, if the defendant were to plead to the charges against him or her.

Authorities allege that San Juan was shot and killed early March 4 in the back parking lot of Elmer's bar in the 100 block of East Clark Avenue. The shooting reportedly occurred at about 1:30 a.m., when deputies responded to a report of a man with a gun at the bar. 

Throughout the course of their investigation, Santa Barbara County sheriff's detectives developed information that pointed to Highley being a possible suspect. Shortly after 9 a.m. March 4, sheriff's detectives took Highley into custody as he was leaving his residence with Perez and four children. 

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After a comprehensive investigation at the Santa Maria sheriff's substation, which included the processing of the crime scene, gathering of physical evidence and interviewing several witnesses, Highley was arrested in connection with the homicide. 

Perez reportedly was in Merced at the time of the incident, only returning to the couple's Orcutt home after Highley called her in a reportedly drunken state. She later was arrested and booked on an accessory charge. Child Protective Services responded and took custody of Highley's children. 

Bail remains at $500,000 for Perez and $2 million for Highley.

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

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Courts/Public Safety Reporter