At the conclusion of a two-day preliminary hearing where Jonathan David Highley was ordered to stand trial for his alleged role in the March 4 fatal shooting of Anthony "Tony" San Juan, the victim's wife shared about her experience of enduring the first holiday season without her husband.
On Thursday, Judge Gustavo Lavayen ruled that enough evidence existed for Highley to answer to his charges -- after testimony revealed that multiple people witnessed Highley as drunk, confrontational and that he brandished a firearm at a woman after drinking at Elmer's Bar in Orcutt the night San Juan was killed.
Highley, 36, is charged with murder, with special gun enhancements. His wife, Mayra Perez, was sentenced earlier this year to County Jail and probation for being an accessory to the crime after the fact.
According to earlier testimony, Highley was reportedly drunk, got into multiple fistfights at the bar, then went to his 114 Park Ave. home to grab a gun. Two men, and San Juan, later approached Highley's apartment. Shortly after, all fled and San Juan was fatally shot.
Highley returns to court Jan. 10 to be re-arraigned on the information.
After he was held to stand trial, San Juan's wife, Sara, had a chance to address the court, despite Highley's attorney's objections. During her speech, she rallied for her husband, pledged to continue to stand by him on his behalf and noted how devastating it has been to celebrate the family's first holiday season without Tony.
"I realize that my speaking today will not impact the preliminary hearing in any way whatsoever," Sara began. "The devastating impacts of the loss of my husband are just beginning to unfold, and it is immensely more difficult during this season."
As the family tried to celebrate their first Thanksgiving without Tony, "there was an incredible sense of loss and sadness that we were unable to disguise," Sara added. "We did not choose this for ourselves. My children experienced their first Thanksgiving without their father; such an unnecessary shame."
While she recognized the statement would not impact the court proceedings, Sara said she wanted Highley to hear her words and contemplate his actions.
"As I can only assume, [Highley] will also be thinking about my husband as he sits alone in his cell during this season of family, friends and most notably, love," she said.
In her conclusion, she asked that Highley take a moment during Christmas Day "to think about the families he maliciously tore apart, in an instant. I hope that he thinks about my husband, my children, myself, Tony's parents and family members and this community as a whole, as we continue to try and heal and move forward."
Deputy Public Defender Mark Owens is representing Highley, with Deputy District Attorney Anne Nudson prosecuting the case.