3.20.2010

Three to answer for murder in Sanders' case
Three suspects in the shooting death of 30-year-old Ezra Sanders will stand trial for his February murder during a botched robbery.

Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Timothy Cissna ruled today that there is sufficient evidence to hold Jeffrey Allan Burgess, 39; Tracey Joleen Williams, 35; and Ruben Anthony Peredia, 32, all of Eureka on charges of first-degree murder. The three have pleaded not guilty.

The fourth suspect, Lukus Larry Mace, 31, of Orleans, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter last week as part of a deal that will have him face a maximum of six years in prison. Mace completed his testimony today, reiterating that he believed it was Burgess that shot Sanders at his trailer in a McKinleyville RV park at around 1 a.m. on Feb. 24, as part of an attempted robbery.

Investigators say that Burgess, Williams, Peredia and Mace went to rob Sanders of cash and drugs. Williams remained in a truck while the other three approached Sanders' trailer, they say.

Mace testified that Peredia knocked on the door, and when Sanders opened it, Mace was shoved from behind by either Peredia or Burgess. Mace said he then stepped out of the way. Peredia threatened Sanders with a large knife, Mace said.

When Sanders appeared to reach for something, someone yelled, “Shoot him, shoot him,” and then Mace said he heard a gunshot. The three retreated to the truck and sped off, he testified.

Mace said he later witnessed Burgess cleaning handgun at his Lewis Avenue house in Eureka.

Mace testified that he didn't know the group was going to rob anyone until they pulled into the RV park that February night. He also said that when he asked Burgess to go along for a ride, Burgess told him to ask Peredia, since it was “Ruben's deal.”

Parts of Mace's testimony ran counter to that of another key witness for the prosecution, Ana Rooney, who lived at the Eureka house where investigators say the plan to rob Sanders was hatched. Rooney had testified that Mace had begun hanging around the Lewis Avenue house days or a week or so before the shooting.

Mace, though, testified he'd just showed up for the first time that day to get some heroin from another acquaintance.

An arraignment for Burgess, Williams and Peredia is set for Aug. 31. They face life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Burgess will also stand trial for additional special allegations that the murder was committed in the course of an attempted armed robbery and that he discharged a firearm, killing Sanders. He will also face a charge of being a felon in possession of a handgun. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges.