Richard Noguera heard the pounding on the front door and went downstairs to let his roommates inside, one of whom was bleeding from a bullet wound to the leg.
He said that later in the evening, Donald Ortez-Lucero and Christopher Strong told him how they shot and killed a 7-month-old baby and the father of the infant in a drug robbery on the other side of town and how one of Ortez-Lucero’s bullets wound up in Strong’s leg.
Noguera once stood as a defendant in the Sept. 14, 2007, shooting death of Sean Aquitania, 21, and his infant son, Sean Jr. The District Attorney’s Office dismissed charges on Noguera, 36, five months after they were filed in October 2011. Now, Noguera is a key witness for the prosecution in the murder trial of Ortez-Lucero, 29, and Strong, 30.
On Monday, he testified with a grant of immunity that nothing he said could be used against him.
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In his nearly three hours on the witness stand, Noguera delivered just about everything Deputy District Attorney Eric Kindall in his opening statement promised the Sacramento Superior Court jury they would hear from him.
Most important for the prosecution, the reluctant Noguera – who looked downward and spoke in single-word or clipped answers – testified that Ortez-Lucero and Strong told him on the very day of the Aquitania killings “that they committed the shooting.”
Defense attorneys are scheduled to cross-examine Noguera on Tuesday in front of Judge Patrick Marlette.
Noguera said he was alone with his girlfriend the afternoon of the killings when Ortez-Lucero and Strong returned to their two-story residence on West River Drive, just off Garden Highway.
He said he took the woman home and then drove Strong to an apartment in the San Mateo area where they met up with Ortez-Lucero. At the apartment, “I took apart a handgun” for Ortez-Lucero, Noguera testified.
The three of them then doubled back to West River Drive, Noguera testified. He said they went upstairs to watch television in the loft area of the home when they saw a news report of the Aquitania killings.
It was then that Ortez-Lucero and Strong described their involvement, according to Noguera’s testimony.
Ortez-Lucero admitted “that an infant was shot,” by him, saying “it was an accident” that his Glock .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol discharged when he “smacked the father in the head with the gun to rob the house.”
“There was supposed to be a whole bunch of kilos of cocaine in the house,” Noguera said the defendants told him.
Noguera said Strong got the lead from his girlfriend on the house on Country Greens Court in the unincorporated south area. He testified Ortez-Lucero told him the defendant braced Aquitania when the father and the son drove up to the house the same time two suspects arrived to commit the robbery.
“He tried to get (Aquitania) out of the car to get access to the house,” Noguera testified that Ortez-Lucero told him. According to Noguera, “they used the father to gain access into the house.”
Witnesses last week said the defendants allowed Aquitania to leave once they got inside. Noguera said Ortez-Lucero and Strong recounted how Aquitania moments later “came inside the house mad” and “went after Chris for his gun.” In the struggle for the gun, Strong told Ortez-Lucero to shoot Aquitania, Noguera testified.
“Don said that he shot him twice.” One of the bullets that killed Aquitania went through his body and struck Strong in the leg, Noguera said they told him.
The same day as the killing, Noguera testified he saw a wallet on the kitchen counter after Ortez-Lucero and Strong came home that had Sean Aquitania’s identification in it.
The next day, Noguera said, he was home with Ortez-Lucero, Strong and his girlfriend when a man they knew as “Hollywood” came to West River Drive with a woman who cut the bullet out of Strong’s leg.
“I saw her squeeze out the bullet with her finger,” Noguera testified.
Noguera said he had rented a car he lent to Ortez-Lucero and Strong that they used to pull off the robbery. He said it was stained with Strong’s blood on the passenger side and that he cleaned it before returning the car three days after the shooting.
He said he never told law enforcement about his roommates “because I was scared.” He knew them to keep guns and bulletproof vests around the house, Noguera testified.
Sacramento County sheriff’s detectives arrested Noguera based on statements they received from an ex-girlfriend of his who said he bragged about having committed the killings while he was beating her up.
Charges were dismissed against him after he gave multiple statements to investigators that helped them establish the case against Ortez-Lucero and Strong.
Noguera testified Monday “I was drunk and in a rage” the time he beat up the woman because he believed she was having an affair behind his back at the same time he admittedly cheated on her.
He told the jury he took credit for the killing “to terrorize her” and “to cause fear.” He was convicted in the case of threatening to injure the woman and was sentenced to a year in county jail.