Three people suspected in a nearly 5-year-old Kerman double-murder case will have two trials, a Fresno County Superior Court judge ruled Monday.
At the start of a motions hearing, Judge John F. Vogt said two trials should be conducted. He ordered Dawn Marie Singh, 39, and Neko Wilson, 32, to one trial and Leroy Anthony Johnson, 47,who could receive the death penalty if convicted, in the second.
Vogt set Oct. 14 as the trial date for Singh and Wilson. Johnson's trial date will not occur until the start of 2015 at the earliest, said his lawyer, Harry Drandell.
Vogt's ruling was over the misgivings of Deputy District Attorney Jeff Dupras, who asked that the three defendants be tried at the same time because it would mean lower costs for the county.
Defense lawyers, including Drandell, who represents Johnson, and his co-counsel, David Mugridge, said a second, earlier trial allows Wilson and Singh to go through the legal process more quickly.
Six people initially were charged with the July 2009 slayings of Gary De Bartolo, 61, and his wife Sandra De Bartolo, 62, inside their El Mar Avenue home near Kerman High School.
Inside their home, the couple had a marijuana-growing operation. The proceeds are believed to be a motive for the murders and home-invasion robbery, and that the victims wouldn't call police because they were growing marijuana.
Jose Alfredo Reyes, 23, Chris Bernard Butler, 32, and Andrew DaWayne Jones, 23, have reached plea deals and are potential witnesses in the trials of Johnson, Singh and Wilson. If convicted of the July 22, 2009, killings Singh and Wilson face life in prison without parole.
Additional motions are scheduled for July 31. A trial date for Johnson could be set during that hearing, Drandell said.
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6166, email@example.com or @beebenjamin on Twitter.