Gabriel Almaguer was facing his co-defendants in a murder case Friday in Santa Maria court instead of sitting next to them as he has at numerous previous court appearances.
Almaguer on Friday agreed to testify truthfully against two of the man charged with killing Alberto Diaz Jr., 32, of Guadalupe in exchange for a lesser sentence regarding his own role in the crime.
Superior Court Judge Edward Bullard heard Almaguer’s testimony during the preliminary hearing, and that of other prosecution witnesses, before determining there was sufficient evidence to order defendants Christopher Brewer and Rudy Ramos to stand trial for the murder.
Initially, alleged gang members and associates Almaguer, 30, Christopher Brewer, 21, Jacob Brewer, 20, and Ramos, 25, were all charged with killing Diaz on Dec. 9 in a parking lot in the 1000 block of North Broadway.
Diaz, an alleged Guadalupe gang member with a long history of crimes, was stabbed to death. Christopher Brewer is accused of doing the actual stabbing.
The Brewer brothers were also Guadalupe gang members and Almaguer and Ramos were Northwest gang associates, according to police.
However, Almaguer on Friday signed an agreement to cooperate with the prosecution in exchange for leniency concerning his case and Jacob Brewer recently pleaded guilty to attempted murder and admitted a gang allegation. He will be sentenced to 17 years in state prison after the case against his brother, Christopher Brewer, and Ramos concludes, said Senior Deputy District Attorney Megan Ross.
If Almaguer testifies truthfully at trial, the prosecution has agreed to let Almaguer plead guilty to assault with a deadly weapon and be sentenced to a maximum of nine years in prison.
If convicted of all charges, Christopher Brewer and Ramos face life prison sentences.
During Friday’s hearing, Almaguer testified that Ramos said Diaz had a “green light” on him, meaning he’d been targeted by gangs for punishment.
He said that Diaz was riding away on his bicycle when Christopher Brewer called him back. The stabbing occurred soon afterwards. Almaguer was nearby at the time.
Santa Maria police Detective Michael Huffman said on the witness stand that Almaguer told him that he believed Christopher Brewer was the stabber.
“He said that Christopher Brewer was the only one that could possibly have stabbed Stormy,” he said, referring to Diaz by his gang moniker.
Huffman went on to say that a friend of Christopher Brewer’s told him Brewer confessed to killing someone.
“He said ‘no it wasn’t self defense. I murdered him’,” Huffman said, recalling the words of the witness.
Santa Maria police Detective Michael Parker said he’d heard rumors that Diaz had been targeted for attacks because he was accused by fellow gang members of taking “taxes” from gang members without permission from his superiors.
Christopher Brewer and Ramos are due back in court on Aug. 9 for a routine hearing.