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Edward Ramirez shooting suspects

Thomas Castillo, from left, Juan Contraras and Nicholas Guzman.

The three men charged with criminal conspiracy in connection to the fatal shooting of 19-year-old Edward Ramirez in Santa Maria will wait until March for their probable cause hearing.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed Wednesday morning to delay the hearing for Nicholas Guzman, Thomas Castillo and Juan Contraras until March 22 at the Santa Maria Superior Court. During Wednesday's brief appearance, defense attorney Michael Scott said prosecutors declined a settlement deal to have Castillo, his client, testify in a separate attempted murder case involving an alleged gang member, another of Scott's clients.

Castillo chose to retain Scott after the settlement deal was declined, effectively eliminating conflict between the two.

The probable cause hearing will determine whether prosecutors presented sufficient information to hold the men to answer to the charges. The hearing is expected to last all day and will be the first time details about what transpired the morning of the shooting are revealed.

Ramirez, of Santa Maria, was allegedly shot in the 200 block of North Lazo Way at approximately 12:42 a.m. Sept. 3, 2017. Upon arrival, Santa Maria Police officers encountered Ramirez near the roadway and initiated lifesaving efforts. Efforts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful and he died shortly afterward.

The Santa Maria Police Department announced the arrest of Castillo, Guzman and Contraras, all of Santa Maria, on gang conspiracy charges late last July, after the three had been charged by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office.

Guzman is charged with criminal street gang conspiracy, conspiracy to commit murder, unlawful firearm activity, vandalism and multiple gang enhancements. Castillo is charged with criminal street gang conspiracy, being a felon in possession of a firearm, possession of ammunition, gang enhancements and also faces prior felony strike convictions. Contraras faces a criminal street gang conspiracy charge.

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Mathew Burciaga covers education in Santa Maria and the surrounding area for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @math_burciaga

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