Murder trial moves forward- Suspects accused of murder, arraignment scheduled
Monday morning Superior Court Judge Hector M. Guzman ruled that there was enough evidence to send Francisco “Frank” Cobarruvias Jr, 35, and Rene Anthony Avina, 23 to trial on suspicion of murder in the case of Pats II Cocktails bartender Terie Colecchi’s early morning beating.
The judge watched three surveillance videos taken during the time of the beating. According to Christopher Glew, Avina’s attorney, the videos show Colecchi attacking Cobarruvias and Cobarruvias defending himself as well as Avina.
“We’re maintaining [that] my client acted in defense of another,” said Glew. “I feel he will be vindicated at the end of the case.”
Cobarruvias’ attorney, Jeff Gray from Torrance, said that it’s clear that his client acted in complete self-defense and that Colecchi, unprovoked, started the fight, ending in his death and many injuries to Cobarruvias, including a cut by his eye, elbow and shoulders and even a severe bite on his hand.
“I argued that the murder charge is inappropriate,” said Gray. “It should be not guilty and at worst voluntary manslaughter.”
According to prosecuting attorney Ethan Milus, the video shows a different scenario.
“It basically shows both defendants trying to enter the location and the victim basically trying to prevent them from entering…” said Milus. “The most critical is the exterior that shows the entire incident — it’s essentially the crux of the case.”
Gray said that the video is plain as day. “Cobarruvias is standing around three or four feet away from Colecchi and Colecchi, who outweighs him by 100 lbs just with all of his force cocks his hand back and hits Cobarruvias in the head, knocks him to the ground.”
Gray said that then Colecchi then stood on top of Cobarruivas, hitting him for 15 seconds or so, then the positions change and Cobarruvias is on top of Colecchi, hitting him six or seven times while Avina kicked him in the head.
“From beginning to end it’s 40 seconds or less,” said Gray. “The idea that this was revenge for not being let in to the bar, there’s just no proof to that at all….[We] still don’t know why Colecchi attacked Cobarruvias.”
Whatever the two sides claim is happening in the scene will eventually be decided on by a jury or, if the defendants decide, a plea deal. However, on Monday it was decided by Judge Guzman that there was enough evidence to take the two men to trial.
“Either side is going to explain that [the video] represents something,” said Glew. “We’re going to say one thing and they’re going to interpret it another way.”
Five witnesses spoke during the pre-trial hearing, including one of the bartenders who was working that evening and a patron who was also there, two police officers and Cobarruvias’ girlfriend.
Gray said that the girlfriend testified that she thought everybody was having fun and after leaving Pats II Cocktails earlier in the evening for another bar, came back to invite one of the bartenders to a party. She then heard Cobarruvias yell, “Why did you do that to me, why did you bite me?”
Gray also said that there is still no autopsy report for Colecchi and the coroner initially said that the initial blows were not fatal and believes there is a secondary cause to his death, like a heart attack.
“There was no cracking of the cranium, no bleeding of the brain, did he suffer a heart attack?” said Gray. “That’s some of the evidence we’re waiting on now.”
Milus explained that the pair will be tried together as co-defendants and their arraignment will be held July 23. Gray said that they plan to enter a plea of not guilty. The pair could potentially make a plea deal or choose to have a trial by jury. If convicted, they could both face life in prison
“Any case of murder is a travesty,” said Milus. “Anytime anybody’s life is lost is a horrendous event and we treat it with the utmost seriousness. Nobody wins from a situation like this.”
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