Slaying suspect pleads guilty

By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer

The second of three men charged in the January 2004 killing of Carlos Murillo of Clovis pleaded guilty Monday to voluntary manslaughter.

Including a one-year firearm enhancement filed by the state, Santiago Calbert, 20, of Clovis faces a maximum of seven years in prison, prosecutors said. Sentencing is scheduled for April.

Prosecutors have maintained Calbert, Eric Duran, 27, and Christopher Meier, 21, were involved in killing Murillo during a vehicle chase.

Duran received a 15-year sentence last month when he pleaded guilty to accessory to second-degree murder.

Ninth Judicial District Attorney Matthew Chandler said although the prosecution believes Calbert and Meier were the shooters, he allowed Calbert to plead to a lesser charge than Duran because he may have had a “provocation defense.” He added that Duran was more culpable because he orchestrated the shootings, even though he didn’t pull the trigger.

Prosecutors also said the three men may have been provoked by shots fired at them first.

“We have the duty to look at the law, look at the facts and join the two,” Chandler said. “The prosecution team developed the theory that there would have been a ‘sufficient provocation defense’ by the defendant.”

Murillo’s wife said Monday the sentence for Calbert doesn’t seem just.

“When they made the decision to do this, they didn’t just kill one person, they killed the lives of an entire family,” said Eleisa Loera-Murillo. “It could have been a possibility that they were provoked, but the sentence that they are getting is not near what they deserve.”

Prosecutors maintain that Duran gave guns to Calbert and Meier and ordered them to shoot.

“Evidence would show that Santiago Calbert, when he started out that evening, didn’t know he would have a gun put in his hand,” Chandler said.

Loera-Murillo said the theory that Duran coerced Calbert and Meier into firing on Murillo doesn’t add up.

“I don’t think anybody can be coerced into doing something like that out of fear,” she said. “I think the whole justice system in general needs to be reviewed because the sentences don’t make sense.”

Attempts to reach Calbert’s lawyer and family Monday evening were unsuccessful.

Meier faces the same charges as Calbert for his part in the shooting, Chandler said. There is no plea agreement in place for Meier yet, but a court date is scheduled for April.