Man Convicted in 2021 Desert Hot Springs Killing

City News Service Pristine Villarreal

INDIO (CNS) – Jurors found a 30-year-old man guilty Thursday of fatally shooting a man in the living room of a Desert Hot Springs home after finding out the victim was in the same home as his girlfriend.

Daniel Ray Martinez of Desert Hot Springs was charged with one felony count each of murder and being a felon and narcotic addict in possession of a firearm. He additionally faces a sentence-enhancing allegation of discharging a firearm causing great bodily injury.

His co-defendant, 41-year-old Jesus Gabriel Pena, was charged as an accessory for allegedly deleting evidence.

The charges stem from the Sept. 8, 2021 fatal shooting of Javier “Happy” Torres.

Jurors began deliberating Wednesday afternoon and reached a verdict by 11 a.m. Thursday, according to Riverside County District Attorney’s office director of communications Amy McKenzie.

Martinez was found guilty of both charges and the allegation was found true while Pena was found not guilty of being an accessory.

A sentencing date for Martinez was set for July 18.

Deputy District Attorney Samantha Paixao told jurors Wednesday during closing arguments at the Larson Justice Center in Indio that Martinez didn’t like Torres because the decedent was previously in a relationship with his girlfriend, so when they got into an argument and he found out they were both in her friend Jonathan Berry’s house, he drove there, kicked down the door and shot Torres three times before fleeing the scene.

“This is made up in his head. … They weren’t in the same room,” Paixao said.

She added that Pena admitted to using the home’s surveillance footage to see what the girlfriend did throughout the day and that a recorded interview with police shows his guilt because of his certainty of not being in any video footage and how he stumbled over his words when he was asked directly.

Paixao said Torres was dropped off by Pena at the fire department in Desert Hot Springs and that he ultimately died from the gunshot wounds.

Martinez’s defense attorney, Andrea Bouchard, told jurors that they were given a false premise and that they were asked to believe testimony from Berry, who she said is unreliable and might even be the true culprit.

“Let’s not forget about Mr. Berry’s immunity agreement. … Because he’s concerned about his own interests. He knows that if he sticks to the story that he told the police … that got him released at that time and free of being charged, that he gets away free and clear,” Bouchard said. “He has an incentive to stick to that story.”

Pena’s defense attorney, Alexander Reed, told jurors that his client had no motive to protect Martinez because they have no evidence to connect them as friends and that there was not a thorough enough investigation to prove that Pena manipulated anything in the surveillance system.

Martinez was arrested in San Diego County. He is being held at the John Benoit Detention Center in Indio in lieu of $1.05 million bail.

Copyright 2023, City News Service, Inc.

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