There's been a major development in the murder case of Bakersfield businessman Jose Arredondo. And I mean major. Defense attorneys for Roberto Gonzalez, the man charged with Arredondo's murder, successfully argued at a recent court hearing that key evidence obtained by police in Cabo San Lucas was gathered either through illegal or improper means. At the end of the three-day hearing, Judge Adrian Rios Ordaz agreed. He threw out all the state evidence, which means prosecutors are essentially left without a case. And Gonzalez, the only suspect arrested in Arredondo's murder, may walk out of jail a free man.
"(Prosecutors) have zero credibility in Roberto's participation in the case," jubilant defense attorney Jaime Tacher said in an interview from Mexico.
Tacher and fellow lawyer Julio Cesar Garcia de Leon challenged the evidence in a very meticulous manner, ripping away at how and why the evidence was invalid. Arredondo was found dead in his condo in Cabo San Lucas the morning of July 16, 2019. It was a most brutal murder, his right ear had been mutilated, a fingernail was pulled from its nail bed, he was stabbed in the back numerous times and beaten to death. Police interviewed several times the security guard on duty the previous night. According to the court record, Diego Magallan told police he saw and identified Gonzalez drive into the Gardenias condo complex, park his vehicle and walk into Arredondo's unit the night of July 15. Arredondo's body was found the next morning.
Tacher tracked down Magallan and his father. Turns out Magallan was 17 years old at the time when questioned by police, something never disclosed by police. Under Mexican law, police cannot question a minor without a parent, guardian or psychologist present. Police failed to mention no such person was present when the young security guard was questioned, nor did prosecutors deny this.
Further, Magallan would later testify that he never told police what they claim he had said, and said he signed whatever documents police placed in front of him because he was scared. Magallan testified he was held against his will, beaten and intimidated by agents of the State Attorney General's Office and forced to sign papers. Judge Rios Ordaz threw out the statements allegedly made by Magallan, including identifying Gonzalez as the man entering Arredondo's condo that night.
"All that evidence is null and void," said Tacher.
The defense then zeroed in on how police said to have found Gonzalez's Chevy Suburban on a city street. Investigators did not then and there follow proper procedure in securing evidence, said the defense. Police failed to inventory, photograph evidence inside the vehicle or restrict access to it before it was hauled off to an impound lot. Prosecutors said blood stains were found on the pedals, carpet and on a pair of golf shoes belonging to Gonzalez that were in the vehicle. The blood was a match to the murder victim. After analyzing police reports, the judge sided with the defense, agreeing there had been a serious breach in following the chain of custody and processing the vehicle.
"What was found in said vehicle and everything in there at hand as a consequence is null," said the judge. He threw this evidence out as well.
The defense claims police planted the blood stains and the golf shoes in the vehicle to frame their client. In the one year since Arredondo's death, the case has taken bizarre twists. Gonzalez claims that after being interviewed by police shortly after Arredondo's death, he was kidnapped, tortured and his life threatened by agents of the State Attorney General's Office who tried to make him confess as the murderer. Others unrelated to Gonzalez have testified they too were kidnapped and tortured by agents in an attempt to implicate Gonzalez as the murderer.
The one thing both sides agree on is that Gonzalez is a long-time friend and golfing partner of Jose Arredondo and that Gonzalez was the last person to have been with him the night of July 15 when they had dinner at Arredondo's condo. So why arrest Gonzalez?
"I believe there is a hidden agenda here," said Tacher. "They are covering up for someone. It's impossible that after one year and two months ... they have not investigated anybody else."
I contacted the State Attorney General's Office for comment on the judge's ruling, but so far nada. It must now decide whether to go forward with the case or release Gonzalez. The next hearing is scheduled for Sept. 21 in Cabo San Lucas. Defense lawyers say they feel "90 percent" certain Gonzalez will walk out a free man.