Jury selection is slated to get underway Tuesday for the trial of a 20-year-old Home Gardens man accused of fatally stabbing a pedestrian during an attempted robbery outside an apartment complex.
Michael Damion Medrano is facing 40 years in state prison if convicted of first-degree murder, two counts of robbery, assault resulting in great bodily injury and a sentence-enhancing allegation of using a deadly weapon in the commission of a felony in the slaying of Rafael Pochoteco.
Medrano’s co-defendant, 17-year-old Joel Lopez, is charged as an accessory in adult court. He is expected to be tried separately early next year.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge David Gunn heard pretrial motions in Medrano’s case and scheduled several panels of prospective jurors to appear at the Riverside Hall of Justice on Tuesday for screening as to their availability and fitness. The trial is expected to last two weeks.
Sheriff’s investigators and prosecutors allege Medrano and Lopez were walking the streets of Home Gardens on the night of March 21, 2016, targeting undocumented migrants for robbery. Medrano allegedly robbed two men at knifepoint before encountering Pochoteco in front of an apartment building in the 13300 block of Magnolia Avenue, just southeast of Corona.
Investigators allege the defendant brandished his knife and demanded that the victim empty his pockets, but Pochoteco put up a fight. Medrano allegedly plunged the blade into the man’s right side, puncturing his lung, according to sheriff’s Sgt. Rob Thompson.
Deputies were summoned by witnesses, and they found the victim mortally wounded. He died on the way to the hospital.
Relying on evidence left at the scene, investigators were able to track down the defendants, who were arrested without incident hours later, Thompson said.
Medrano, who is being held without bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside, has no documented prior felony convictions.
–City News Service
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