3.20.2010

TS - Witness: Sanders' alleged killers involved in meth

Witness: Sanders' alleged killers involved in meth
One of the four suspects accused of killing a 30-year-old McKinleyville man described in detail to law enforcement the events leading up to the February shooting, an investigator testified Tuesday.

Ezra Sanders was found shortly after 1 p.m. Feb. 24, lying in front of his trailer in the Widow White Creek RV Park dead of a single gunshot wound. Witnesses told investigators they heard a vehicle pull up to Sanders' trailer before hearing a gunshot, followed by the sound of a vehicle speeding away.

Investigators have said they believe the murder was the result of an attempted robbery gone bad, and that Sanders was found with a large sum of money and a small amount of illicit drugs in his possession.

In April, four suspects were arrested and charged with Sanders' murder: Jeffrey Alan Burgess, 39, of Eureka; Lukus Larry Mace, 31, of Orleans; Ruben Anthony Peredia, 32, of Eureka; and Tracey Joleen Williams, 35, of Eureka. All four have pleaded not guilty.

Tuesday, the second day of the case's preliminary hearing, Humboldt County Sheriff's Office Detective Troy Garey retook the stand, testifying about an April 9 interview with Mace. He said he'd already interviewed Mace, who was in custody for an unrelated matter, but that Mace contacted him saying he had additional information regarding Sanders' death.

Garey testified that, during the interview, Mace told him that he'd accompanied Burgess, Peredia and Williams to Sanders' trailer park in the early morning ours of Feb. 24. Garey said Mace told him that after entering the park, Peredia exited the vehicle they were riding in to dismantle a streetlight in the park, before they made their way to Sanders' trailer.

Garey said Mace told him that Burgess, who was driving, cut the lights on the truck before pulling up to Sanders' trailer, at which point he, Mace and Peredia got out of the vehicle to approach Sanders' trailer, leaving Williams in the truck as a lookout.

Prosecutor Ben McLaughlin didn't continue with this line of questioning Tuesday, but investigators have previously said they believe that when Mace, Burgess and Peredia allegedly attempted to rob Sanders, he resisted, raising his hands to fight. Burgess then allegedly shot Sanders once in the chest, according to investigators.

Garey also testified Tuesday that, during the investigation, a number of items were seized from Sanders' trailer, including $3,000 in cash, Sanders' cell phone, a spent .45-caliber shell casing, a small amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

Sanders' friend Ana Rooney, who also lived with Burgess and Williams, also retook the stand Tuesday, testifying about the world of methamphetamine that surrounded Sanders, and the suspects in the case.

Rooney said she moved into a house on Eureka's Lewis Avenue where she lived with Burgess and Williams from December 2008 until shortly after Sanders' death. She testified that both she and Williams sold methamphetamine at the house. Injecting, smoking and snorting methamphetamine were common occurrences there, she testified, and the house was frequently full of people coming and going, many of them looking to get high.

Rooney testified that she saw Sanders the morning before he was killed, and that he had a lot of cash on him at the time. She testified that on the morning of Feb. 23, she sold Sanders an ounce of methamphetamine for $1,400, and that he repaid her $300 she'd lent him and that he loaned her an additional $1,200 to help her pay off a drug debt.

Previously, Sanders had never bought more than $20 of methamphetamine at a time, Rooney testified, adding that Sanders told her he was buying the ounce to give to a woman who owed him money with the hope that she could sell it, repay him and also earn some extra money to provide for her children.

The morning that Sanders was shot, Rooney testified that she noticed Peredia, Mace and Williams return to the house, noticed them stripping off clothing and overheard Burgess say they had to burn what they had been wearing. Rooney said she initially thought Burgess was joking.

”I was in my room doing drugs and I wasn't too into what everyone else was doing,” Rooney said.

Rooney said she moved out of the Lewis Avenue home shortly after Sanders was killed and started to get clean.

”I left and went to (Narcotics Anonymous),” she said. “I got my head out of my a--.”

The preliminary hearing, which is being held to determine if there is enough evidence to warrant the suspects' standing trial, is scheduled to continue today with Rooney retaking the witness stand.

Thadeus Greenson can be reached at 441-0509 or tgreenson@times-standard.com