January trial set in machete homicide case

An Atwater man charged with killing a man with a machete will stand trial in January, a Merced County Superior Court judge ordered Thursday.

Antonio Cruz Guzman, 31, has pleaded not guilty in the April 28 stabbing death of Joseph McDonald.

On Thursday, Judge Marc A. Garcia scheduled jury selection to begin Jan. 21, 2014.

Thomas Min, the deputy district attorney prosecuting the case, said he expects the trial to take about one week.

McDonald, 61, was found at his home on Valencia Way in Atwater suffering from multiple knife injuries. He was taken to Mercy Medical Center Merced, where he died.

Authorities have not commented on a suspected motive for the killing.

Police arrested Guzman at his home in the 5200 block of Crest Way the day of the slaying. During the search of Guzman’s residence, officers said, he refused to comply with police orders and was subdued with a stun gun.

Witnesses said someone left the scene in a burgundy 1993 Chevrolet pickup with a chrome roll bar and off-road lights. Another witness provided detectives with the first name of a possible suspect.

Detectives said they discovered that the suspect’s truck had blood on the steering wheel and found a machete they believe was used in the attack.

The defendant’s family has denied he played any role in McDonald’s death.

An October jury trial was postponed to accommodate a scheduling conflict for Guzman’s public defender.

Guzman is facing other charges including drunken driving, driving on a suspended license, possession of a phony fishing license, and immigration and probation violations, according to Merced County jail booking records.

Guzman remains in custody without bail.