By City News Service
Jury selection got under way today for the retrial of a Nuevo man accused of gunning down a repair shop owner over payment for what the defendant believed was shoddy work.
Saul Villa Avalos could face 25 years to life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder and sentence-enhancing gun and great bodily injury allegations in the Feb. 24, 2008, slaying of 60-year-old Charles Ellsworth Richardson.
Avalos, 26, is being held without bail at the Southwest Detention Center in Murrieta.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Michael Donner began screening the first panel of prospective jurors today, with jury selection expected to continue into Wednesday.
Last August, a Murrieta jury deadlocked on whether to convict Avalos of the murder count, but did find him guilty of possession of marijuana for sale, transportation of marijuana for sale, possession of an assault weapon and a misdemeanor count of carrying a loaded firearm in public.
According to sheriff’s investigators, Avalos 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. But Avalos demanded his money back, according to investigators.
As the two men argued, Avalos allegedly pulled a handgun and shot Richardson several times in the street. The repairman died a short time later at a hospital.
Avalos 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, prosecutors said.
Avalos also was allegedly in possession of the .380 caliber pistol used in the shooting.
His co-defendants have since pleaded guilty to various felonies and are serving time in state prison.