Sophia Garduno said she and boyfriend David "Jake" Carrera had been driving around Land Park on a cold January night and were talking about their lousy relationship when they pulled over to the curb on Francis Court.
In the car parked just ahead of their Hummer, Garduno said, she saw a friend of Carrera's jump out with a kid she didn't recognize. The friend had a gun pointed at the kid when they walked up to a nice two-story house.
"I'm talking to Jake, and then I heard a gunshot and a really loud scream," Garduno testified Monday in Sacramento Superior Court.
Police and prosecutors identified the friend as Alex Brown Jr., and they said he had shot and killed 18-year-old James Ramirez, a recent McClatchy High School graduate, in an attempted marijuana robbery.
Garduno was the second witness called to the stand on the first day of the trial for Carrera, 33, Brown, 33, and a third defendant, Terry Larell Alexander, 25.
They are charged with murder in the shooting death of Ramirez in a neighborhood barely a block from the ninth fairway at William Land Park Golf Course.
In his opening statement, Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Sean Laird said the Jan. 3, 2006, killing was the third and final blast from the three-man pot-robbery crew that had rocked the violence meter.
Carrera, Brown and Alexander started their spree two days after Christmas when they crashed a dope dealer's house in Oak Park and robbed and beat four people bloody, according to the prosecutor.
In that first attack, the defendants also forced three of their victims to engage in assorted sex acts that Alexander photographed on his cell phone and threatened to make public if anybody went to the police, Laird said.
Hours before they knocked on James Ramirez's bedroom window and got him to open his parents' front door, the prosecutor said, the three invaded another house, this one on 18th Avenue. Not satisfied, the trio told the two brothers they beat up, robbed and handcuffed on 18th Avenue that they had better find them a better score, Laird said.
One of the brothers, Jeremy Humphries, led the crew to his friend James Ramirez's house, Laird said.
The prosecutor said it was Brown who held a .40-caliber Glock semiautomatic pistol on Humphries and shot Ramirez dead in the foyer.
Joel Ramirez, 29, a Marine Corps veteran, testified Monday that he had confronted his little brother a couple of weeks earlier about the pot world. His brother had just been busted and charged with possession for sale.
"I asked him directly," Joel Ramirez testified. "He had pulled out a wad of money and I asked him what he was doing."
The answer: "He had been selling drugs since his sophomore year in high school," Ramirez told the jury Monday. "Large quantities mostly to rich, white kids."
Ramirez said the 5 a.m. commotion awoke him.
"I was woken up early in the morning to what I thought was a scuffling sound," Ramirez testified.
He said he had hardly opened the door of his own room "when I saw a flash and heard a gunshot go off."
He saw his brother bounce off a wall and hit the floor, moments from death with a chest wound, Ramirez said.
"I remember crying out, 'James!' " Ramirez testified. "I ran up to him, but he wasn't responding."
At the front door, Jeremy Humphries stood on the porch, bleeding and screaming. He had been pistol whipped and handcuffed.
"He said something about, 'They're going to kill my brother! They're going to come back for me!' " said Joel Ramirez, who testified that he shoved Humphries into the backyard to keep the rest of the house safe.
Humphries stayed there until police arrived a few minutes later.
Humphries' brother, James Humphries, who had also been kidnapped by the crew, was later found bloody and beaten, but alive, Laird said.
The investigation quickly led to Carrera, Alexander and Brown.
The first two were taken into custody three days after the shooting, according to jail records. Brown wasn't arrested until 2009.
Garduno, 28, was never charged in the case, but Laird said it took her three years before she agreed to cooperate with police and prosecutors. She had even repaired her crumbling relationship with Carrera after his arrest, according to the prosecutor.
She testified Monday that she was reluctant to go to police because "loyalty is a big thing to me."
Garduno said she also feared she might be killed.
The witness will be back on the stand when the trial resumes Tuesday in front of Judge Michael A. Savage.