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Murder charge for former Speaker's son

December 3, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
The San Diego District Attorney's Office announced on Wednesday that it has charged Esteban Nunez and three other men with murder in connection with the death of a 22-year-old college student.In a press conference, police said they are looking at the possibility that the crime may be tied to gang activity.

The son of prominent Democrat and former California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez was arrested in Sacramento on Tuesday. He and three other suspects were arrested after a two-month investigation.

Fabian Nunez said in a statement, "This is a very difficult and painful experience for every family involved. Maria and I love our children very much. We are confident our son Esteban will be cleared of the charges he is facing. We will continue to fully cooperate with all law enforcement officials and have faith in our system of justice. We ask that the media respect our family's privacy as the process moves forward."

Police said 22-year-old Luis Santos, a college student at San Diego Mesa College, was stabbed to death on October 4 in near the campus of San Diego State University. Santos died at the scene.

"The case has been under investigation since the 4th. Within a few hours of the incident, we started receiving information from a couple of witnesses, who gave us information on possible suspects. We worked with the information that was provided by them," said Capt. Jim Collins from the San Diego Police Department.

According to police, Esteban Nunez and three other suspects had gotten into a fight with four other men near the campus of San Diego State University as they left a party at 2:15 a.m.

"If these four men did not visit San Diego for that weekend, my son would still be here for Christmas," said the victim's father Fred Santos.

Esteban Nunez and friends Ryan Jett, Leshanor Thomas and Rafael Garcia, who are also 19, face one count of murder and three counts of assault with a deadly weapon.

Esteban Nunez and at least one of the other suspects are college students in the Sacramento area, and had gone to San Diego "to visit friends and party," police said. A female witness came forward after the fight and provided information that helped police trace the suspects.

Fabian Nunez, 41, was elected to the Assembly in 2002 and became speaker in 2004. He will reportedly travel to San Diego when his son is transferred from Sacramento.

The victim's mother said she worries that the former speaker's political clout could influence the judicial process.

"I hope that it's not because people have clout that are gonna walk away. If these people did the crime, then they need to be punished and do their time," said the victim's mother Kathy Santos.

Fabian Nunez is working for a New York-based consulting firm.

He recently stepped down from his post as speaker after a failed attempt to change California's term limit laws.


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