Prosecutors at one time identified a man named Richard Antonio Noguera as the person who shot and killed a baby during a south-area drug robbery six years ago.
Now, they're saying it was Donald Ortez-Lucero who killed 7-month-old Sean Aquitania Jr., as well as the baby's father, Sean Aquitania Sr., 21 and authorities are basing the identification in part on the word of the very same Richard Antonio Noguera they once named as the triggerman.
Ortez-Lucero, now 28, and co-defendant Christopher Nicholas Strong, 29, were both ordered Friday by Judge Steve White to stand trial in the Sept. 14, 2007, double slaying on Country Greens Court near Florin High School in the unincorporated south area.
The order came after a two-day preliminary hearing in Sacramento Superior Court that began May 17 and concluded Friday with testimony from the case's lead detective.
In his testimony, Detective Brian Meux laid out the details of a nearly four-year investigation that culminated in late 2011 with the arrests of the two defendants and Noguera.
Noguera got mixed up in the case when, while he was beating up his girlfriend in December 2009 and threatening her with a handgun and holding her against her will for two hours, he told her he had killed 27 adults and one baby, Meux testified.
Arrested in October 2011, Noguera told detectives he was only lying about the killings to further terrorize the woman he was assaulting, Meux said.
Charges against Noguera were dismissed in March 2012, without any sort of agreement with the prosecution, and it's not clear if he will be called to testify.
While in custody, Noguera said in an interview with Meux that he was a former roommate of Ortez-Lucero and Strong, and that the two of them came home the afternoon of the killings to the house they all shared in the 3600 block of West River Drive in South Natomas. Meux said that as the trio watched a TV news account of the killings, Ortez-Lucero told Noguera what had happened during the drug robbery at Country Greens Court.
Under questioning from Deputy District Attorney Eric Kindall, Meux first related how another witness who was inside the house at the time of the Aquitania slayings, identified as Anthony Palmer, had told the detective he heard "some sort of bang" outside.
When Dallas Gill, the resident of the Country Greens Court house and the target of the drug robbery, opened the door to see what was going on, the gunmen barged in and beat him up, Meux testified.
"Where's the money at?" one of the intruders shouted while beating Gill, Meux testified, quoting Palmer.
Meux said the investigation showed that it was then that Sean Aquitania ran into the house and launched a frenzied attack on the gunmen while his friends Gill and Palmer ran away. Meux said the two of them stopped when they heard a single gunshot and came back while the intruders made their getaway.
Noguera picked up the story from there, according to Meux, on how Aquitania surprised the robbers when he drove up on them and how he got pistol-whipped next to his car, with the gun going off and firing a bullet that struck his son, sitting in his car seat.
"He said that Don told him that he had shot, had shot had hit the man over the head and had subsequently hit the baby," Meux testified. "He said that at some point, the man came in and attacked him and Chris, and that the man was trying to take Chris' gun (and) that Chris told Don to shoot the man."
The bullet that killed Aquitania Sr. ripped through the victim and struck Strong in the knee, according to the story Noguera attributed to Ortez-Lucero, Meux testified.
Noguera said he and Ortez-Lucero cut out the bullet to keep Strong from having to go to the hospital, Meux testified. Other acquaintances also helped in the treatment of the wound, the detective said other witnesses told him.
Meux testified that Noguera told him that Ortez-Lucero occasionally carried a .40 caliber semi-automatic handgun. A .40 caliber shell casing was found next to Sean Aquitania's car, another detective testified in the first day of the hearing last month.
Forensic tests have determined that DNA found under Sean Aquitania Sr.'s fingernails established a one-in-10-quadrillion match to Ortez-Lucero.
Defense attorneys Donald Masuda, for Strong, and Charles F. Bourdon, for Ortez-Lucero, suggested in their questioning of Meux that their cases will be based on a questioning of the credibility of the prosecution witnesses.
Both said in interviews after the hearing that their clients contend that somebody else killed the Aquitanias.
Ortez-Lucero and Strong are facing special-circumstance allegations of multiple murders, murder during the course of a burglary and murder during the commission of an attempted robbery.
Kindall has said the District Attorney's Office is not seeking the death penalty in the case, which means the two of them are facing life terms with no parole if they are convicted. White set their next court date for June 28.
Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.