A lawyer for a man accused of planning the 2009 murders of a Kerman couple said the couple's son -- not his client -- was the mastermind of the crime.
But a Fresno County Superior Court judge denied a motion to put Eric De Bartolo, 35, of Kerman on the stand Tuesday. Lawyers for Neko Wilson and Leroy Johnson, two of four suspects awaiting trial for the murders of Gary and Sandra De Bartolo at their home, had wanted to question Eric De Bartolo.
Judge John E. Vogt said the motion filed by lawyer Tim Pori would not clear Wilson of murder charges, even if it proved Eric De Bartolo was involved.
"We don't have to clear our client, we just have to raise a reasonable doubt" of his guilt, Pori said. "In my opinion there is overwhelming evidence that Eric De Bartolo set this thing up."
Vogt told Pori and lawyers for 45-year-old Johnson, who joined Pori, that Pori can file another motion.
Russell VanRozeboom, Eric De Bartolo's lawyer, called Pori's motion "a complete fishing expedition."
He said his client will testify at the trial and that his statements to law enforcement are videotaped and available to defense lawyers.
VanRozeboom contends that Eric De Bartolo did not play a role in the crime.
"Mr. De Bartolo is the victim, his parents were murdered," VanRozeboom said.
Pori said he interviewed a confidential informant who repeatedly had warned law enforcement weeks before that a home-invasion robbery would occur at the De Bartolos' home at 15325 El Mar Ave. in July 2009.
The informant said thieves wanted marijuana grown in the home by Gary De Bartolo, 61, and that Eric De Bartolo wanted insurance money as well as family money that included winnings his father amassed while gambling.
Sandra De Bartolo, 62, was a secretary at Kerman High School. Gary De Bartolo had owned an auto glass repair business. Wilson, who ran a car detailing business, had previously visited the De Bartolos' house and borrowed Gary De Bartolo's tools.
Planning for a robbery began after strippers visited the De Bartolo home a few weeks before the murders. Members of an Asian gang from Long Beach were supposed to carry out the robbery and visited Kerman to stake out the neighborhood, but apparently backed out, Pori said.
That left the planning for a small circle of friends led by Eric De Bartolo and Dawn Marie Singh, Pori said. Eric De Bartolo had paid Singh, 37, to perform as a stripper for Gary De Bartolo at his home, he said. Singh drove the getaway car that was later stopped by law enforcement after the stabbings, Pori said.
Pori said his client, Wilson, 30, was not at the Kerman home at the time of the stabbings.
He said he thinks other informants exist, but the District Attorney's Office has not given him documents with their names.
Prosecutor Jeff Dupras told Vogt that he gave everything about informants that his office has to Pori.
Two men already have pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the slayings. Chris Butler, 36, and Andrew DaWayne Jones, 21, took a plea bargain and face up to 26 years in state prison when they are sentenced in March.
A jury trial for Wilson, Johnson, Singh and Jose Alfredo Reyes, 22, is set for Jan. 7, 2013. Wilson is from Clovis, and the other defendants are from Fresno.
Staff writer Pablo Lopez contributed to this report. The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6166, email@example.com
or @beebenjamin on Twitter.