After several days of preliminary examinations, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon has decided that there is enough evidence for the three suspects charged with the 2010 murder of 17-year-old Justice Afoa to stand trial, prosecutors said Friday.
According to Deputy District Attorney Elgin Lowe, Rafael Tovar, 32, his half-sister, Daniela Guzman, 19, and their friend Daniel Howard, 31, are scheduled to appear in court Feb. 6 for an arraignment at the Hayward Hall of Justice. A date for the trial will be determined following the appearance.
The trio face charges of murder and felony conspiracy to commit murder with gang enhancements in connection to the former Newark Memorial High School student's killing. Although Guzman was 17 at the time of the murder, she will be tried as an adult.
On Monday, Lowe laid out evidence purporting that Howard, Tovar and Guzman had planned for several months and carried out the brutal stabbing death of Justice in broad daylight on December 15, 2010.
Gang specialist Lisa Schwerin testified on Monday that Guzman came to the Newark police station willingly the night of Justice’s death, at which time data was extracted from Guzman’s cell phone with her consent. That cell phone data would be used in court to build up against Guzman and her co-defendants.
According to Lowe, Justice’s death was preceded by a string of fights and encounters stemming from a fight at a house party on Sept. 11, 2010. In that incident, Afoa beat up Tovar outside Guzman’s house — an act that may have proved fateful.
Text messages read in court Monday revealed that the trio began discussing retaliation that very night while Tovar was being treated for his injuries at Eden Hospital in Castro Valley.
Newark Police Detective Dan Anderson, a specialist in using cell phone data to solve crimes, read aloud texts sent from Guzman’s phone in which a friend implied hitting the wrong target at an Oct. 30, 2010 Halloween party where a fight broke out between Guzman’s friends and Afoa and his friends. One of Justice’s friends was stabbed during the fight.
Justice’s sister, Dinah Afoa, told Patch earlier in the week that Justice’s family feared for his safety. He was supposed to stay with family in Modesto after the Oct. 30, 2010 attack. But that never happened.
On Dec. 15, 2010, a little before 4 p.m., Justice was stabbed to death by two men while he walked on Cedar Boulevard near Birch Street.
Authorities believe the two assailants to be Tovar and Howard, who they say stabbed Justice at least five times each.
Guzman and Tovar were arrested Dec. 10, 2012 after two of three suspects confessed to taking part in the 2010 stabbing, according to authorities.
Howard was re-arrested in connection to the 2010 slaying after he was interviewed by officers in jail, where he was being held on an attempted murder charge that stemmed from a Nov. 25 incident in Fremont.
All three suspects are being held at Santa Rita Jail on no bail.
- Justice Afoa Case: Sister Recalls Months Before Teen Was Killed
- Judge Weighs Evidence Against Trio Accused Of Plot To Kill Justice Afoa
- Accused Trio In Justice Afoa Murder Plead Not Guilty
- Justice Afoa Case: Fourth Suspect Arrested
- Justice Afoa Case: Arrests Made in 2010 Teen Slaying
- 17-year-old Student Stabbed to Death Near Newark Memorial High