Crime - Sacto 911

Defendant takes stand, denies shooting 3-year-old

A photo of 3-year-old shooting victim Jorge Azios III hangs on a post near Loucreta and Palmer House drives in August 2012.
A photo of 3-year-old shooting victim Jorge Azios III hangs on a post near Loucreta and Palmer House drives in August 2012. Sacramento Bee file

Marcus Weber tearfully pleaded his innocence Wednesday, telling a prosecutor that he had nothing to do with the gunshots fired that killed 3-year-old Jorge Azios III in 2012 as he slept in the back of his father’s sport-utility vehicle.

“I didn’t shoot that kid, man. I didn’t shoot that kid,” a sobbing Weber, 19, told Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Jeff Hightower, testifying in his own defense at his Sacramento Superior Court murder trial as his co-defendants Eric Minjares, 20, and Gabriel Quintero, 23, watched.

The three are accused of climbing into a borrowed white Ford SUV before spraying a burgundy Ford Expedition with gunfire meant for the boy’s father, Jorge Azios, on Loucreta Drive late July 4, 2012, killing the tot.

Testimony before Sacramento Superior Court Judge Eugene Balonon continues Thursday.

Prosecution witness Anthony Canales testified earlier that Minjares, Quintero and Weber borrowed his Ford Expedition, then returned to the party bragging of the shooting.

Canales testified that Weber was armed with a .40-caliber Glock handgun that Weber told him “shot like butter. No kick.”

But Weber on Wednesday testified he wasn’t armed, did not know Minjares or Quintero and was only in Canales’ car until he was dropped off at a July 4, 2012, party.

I’m emotional right now because you’re trying to take my life away for something I didn’t do.

Marcus Weber, accused in the murder of Jorge Azios, 3

Defense attorneys say Canales fired the fatal shots and lied to authorities and that the deadly shooting was revenge against Alfonso Martinez, Azios’ brother, for shooting him in the hand in a gunbattle at a Florin Road intersection in July 2011. Canales was arrested after that shooting and testified that he was on the lookout for Martinez’s burgundy Ford after he was freed from jail.

Weber said he first met Canales when Weber was 13. Canales, then 17, seemed to live the life of the rappers they listened to, with their flashy cars, pretty girls – and guns.

“He always had cars,” Weber told his attorney Donald Masuda. “He would give us rides. He had cars and stuff that we didn’t have.”

On the stand Wednesday, Weber testified that he was a passenger in Canales’ car July 4, 2012, as Canales bounced from party to party across south Sacramento, before Canales dropped him off at a party that evening. Weber said he stayed until about midnight July 5, when he called Canales, who he said was at another party, to pick him up.

Weber testified that Canales looked to him for a possible alibi, though he didn’t know about the shooting.

“The cops may be calling, and if they do, I’m going to tell them I was with you,” Weber said Canales told him. “I said, ‘I don’t want to be involved with that.’ He was trying to get me involved to cover up for something he was scared of.”

Hightower on Wednesday said Weber’s cellular phone records showed that Weber’s phone was powered off at the time of the fatal shooting, but that calls were made to Anthony Canales soon after the shooting and the morning after young Azios was shot.

Weber testified his phone died, but couldn’t recall where he recharged it to make calls later. He also couldn’t explain why his phone was silent for a week after the boy’s death.

“Your phone was powered off permanently because the police were looking for you,” Hightower said at one point, his voice rising.

Weber said he knew he was a suspect only after seeing his photo on the TV news after the shooting.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Weber testified. “I thought it was like a nightmare. It was the worst thing ever.”

Darrell Smith: 916-321-1040, @dvaughnsmith

Related stories from Sacramento Bee