A dead man's reputation took a major tumble in court Friday in one of Sacramento's more high-profile homicides in recent years.
Gunned down along with his baby in a 2007 drug robbery, Sean Aquitania, in the time before his own death, had been pulling off the same kind of drug robberies as the killers who took his life and that of his 7-month-old son, deputies confirmed from the witness stand.
The officers testified on the first day of a Sacramento Superior Court preliminary hearing for Christopher Nicholas Strong, now 29, and Donald Ortez-Lucero, 28. The two men are charged with special-circumstance murder in the Sept. 14, 2007, shooting deaths of Aquitania, 27, and his slain namesake, Sean Aquitania Jr.
Under questioning from defense attorneys Donald Masuda of Sacramento and Charles F. Bourdon of San Francisco, sheriff's Deputy Patrick Gallagher and Detective Tom McCue confirmed in their testimony what had been the innuendo lurking around the memory of the elder Aquitania as the investigation continued.
Gallagher answered in the affirmative when asked by the defense lawyers about Aquitania's visit to a friend's house in the 8400 block of Country Greens Court with his baby in tow. He went there, the deputy said, to borrow a gun to employ in his own business of robbing drug dealers.
Moreover, Aquitania's body bore the bold tattooed initials, "SK," that identified him as a "Scrap Killer," McCue said. The marking is common on Norteño street gang members who identify their rival Sureños in ink with the "scrap" pejorative.
The sheriff's officials also confirmed that Aquitania, at the time of his death, was getting the gun from a convicted, reputed and fairly substantial southeast Sacramento drug dealer by the name of Dallas Gill. In the chaos after the killing, Gill moved at least one gun, a quantity of bullets, several ounces of cocaine and several thousand dollars from inside the Country Greens Court address into a car, Gallagher confirmed in court. Then Gill had an acquaintance drive away in the vehicle, the deputy testified.
A search of the vehicle under a warrant turned up all the contraband, as well as some psychedelic psilocybin mushrooms, according to Gallagher.
Gill had been playing an X-Box video game when Aquitania drove up to the house, McCue said. When Aquitania walked up to the front door, he was rushed inside the house by as many as three surprise robbers, according to the detective.
As soon as the robbers came in, Gill "stated he got hit immediately in the head with a gun," McCue testified. Gill and other people in the house were ordered to lie on the floor while the robbers zip-tied them, according to McCue.
Gill told investigators that while they were lying on the ground, Aquitania said "something about his child," McCue testified. One of the robbers then took him outside, where his son was in his car seat.
At some point, one of the robbers shot the 7-month-old in the head in what authorities described as an execution-style slaying. The identity of the shooter was not disclosed during Friday's hearing.
Moments later, a "crazy" Aquitania ran back inside the residence and attacked the robbers, Gill told the detectives, at which point they shot him to death, witnesses said.
When the robbers fled after the shootings, Gill apparently retrieved the baby from the car seat and flagged down a school bus driver, who called paramedics. Sean Aquitania Jr. died later at UC Davis Medical Center.
Under questioning from Deputy District Attorney Eric Kindall, investigators said that they took clippings of Aquitania's fingernails.
Along with his own DNA, the clippings contained genetic material that was a 1-in-10 quadrillion match to Ortez-Lucero, according to the testimony of criminalist Ryan Nickel of the district attorney's crime lab.
The preliminary hearing, in front of Judge Steve White, is expected to conclude when it resumes June 7.
Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.