Crime - Sacto 911

No retrial for 3 accused in 2012 drive-by that killed sleeping boy

A photo of 3-year-old murder victim Jorge Azios III hangs on a post near the intersection of Loucreta Drive and Palmer House Drive in 2012.
A photo of 3-year-old murder victim Jorge Azios III hangs on a post near the intersection of Loucreta Drive and Palmer House Drive in 2012. Sacramento Bee file

Sacramento County prosecutors will not retry the three men accused in a July 2012 drive-by shooting that killed a sleeping 3-year-old boy, citing insufficient evidence to refile the case.

Eric Minjares, Gabriel Quintero and Marcus Weber faced murder charges at trial in the deadly shooting the night of July 4, 2012, that killed 3-year-old Jorge Azios III in the back of his father’s sport-utility vehicle in south Sacramento.

A Sacramento Superior Court jury in July deadlocked 10-2 to acquit the men, forcing a mistrial.

After a detailed review of all of the evidence, we do not believe a second trial would result in a substantial change in the outcome.

Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office statement

Sacramento County prosecutors dismissed the case Monday, freeing the three who had been held in county custody since their arrests days after young Jorge’s death.

“After a detailed review of all of the evidence, we do not believe a second trial would result in a substantial change in the outcome,” district attorney’s officials said in a statement Tuesday, adding the office was “obligated to dismiss when we came to that conclusion.” Prosecutors in the statement did not say whether charges might be filed against other suspects.

Minjares, 20, Quintero, 23, and Weber, 19, were released from custody about 1 a.m. Tuesday, said Minjares’ attorney Jesse Ortiz, who said Monday’s decision by prosecutors was long overdue.

“What happened yesterday was something that should’ve happened in July 2012. This never should’ve been brought against these kids, who are now young men,” Ortiz said during a break from trial at the Sacramento County Courthouse. “They’ve lost an important part of their life, and we’re glad this chapter is over.”

Quintero was 19 at the time of his arrest. Minjares was 17; and Weber, whose emotional testimony asserting his innocence was one of the trial’s key moments, was 16.

The complex case hinged on the testimony of Anthony Canales, who returned to California under witness protection from out of state to testify for the prosecution.

On the stand, Canales admitted to a 2011 gunbattle with young Jorge’s uncle, Alfonso Martinez, at a Florin Road intersection and testified that he had sought revenge against his rival after he was wounded and jailed. But Canales maintained he was innocent of the shooting that killed Jorge.

He instead implicated Minjares, Quintero and former friend Weber, claiming the three were armed when they borrowed his SUV at a party, used it to track down Jorge Azios, the boy’s father, then returned to the party and bragged about the shooting.

Defense attorneys branded Canales a liar out to protect himself from jail time or revenge on the street, lying to investigators first about the 2011 shootout, then about the fatal 2012 shooting.

“From the moment I entered this case, I could not understand why our clients were arrested,” Ortiz said Tuesday. “The one person who should’ve been arrested was Canales.”

Defense attorneys argued Canales fired the fatal shots and that no DNA or fingerprint evidence linked their clients to the crime.

Darrell Smith: 916-321-1040, @dvaughnsmith

Related stories from Sacramento Bee

  Comments