A jury was seated today to decide the case of a Nuevo man accused of gunning down a repairman over what the defendant believed was a slipshod job on his pickup truck.
Opening statements are slated tomorrow morning in the trial of 26-year-old Saul Villa Avalos, who could face life in prison without parole if convicted of first-degree murder in the Feb. 24, 2008, slaying of 60-year-old Charles Ellsworth Richardson.
Avalos also faces charges of possession of marijuana for sale, transportation of marijuana for sale and possession of an assault weapon, a misdemeanor count of carrying a loaded firearm in public, and gun and great bodily injury allegations.
The defendant is being held without bail at the Southwest Detention Center in Murrieta.
According to testimony at Avalos’ May 2008 preliminary hearing, he had hired Richardson to work on his Chevrolet Silverado but was not pleased with the results.
Richardson, who had just opened his trailer repair shop in the 27800 block of Highway 74 in Romoland, charged the defendant $3,200 for the job, and the defendant demanded his money back, according to Riverside County sheriff’s investigators.
As the two men argued, Avalos allegedly pulled a handgun and shot Richardson several times in the street. He died a short time later at a hospital.
The defendant fled the area with his younger brother, Javier Avalos, and the two men hooked up with two friends — Samuel Perez, 24, and Eleazor Morales, 25 — all of whom went to a home on Shady Bend Drive in Moreno Valley, according to the prosecution.
Detectives tracked the men down and arrested them without incident.
During a search of the property, investigators recovered more than 40 pounds of marijuana and a small quantity of methamphetamine, according to evidence presented at the preliminary hearing.
Avalos was also allegedly in possession of the .380 caliber pistol used in the shooting.
Javier Avalos and Perez pleaded guilty to being an accessory to a felony and were sentenced to two-year and 16-month prison terms, respectively. Morales pleaded guilty to being in possession of a controlled substance for sale and was sentenced to a two-year term.