A Sage man accused of gunning down his older brother and stashing the body where it is hidden to this day “must be held accountable” for the deadly attack, a prosecutor said Monday, while the defense argued there’s still no concrete evidence that a crime was ever committed.
“The defendant’s conduct created the situation,” Deputy District Attorney Josh DeGonia said in his closing statement in the trial of 30-year-old Edgar Hernan Mancia. “His conduct led to the death of Daniel Mancia.”
Edgar Mancia is charged with second-degree murder for the June 2019 slaying of his 29-year-old sibling.
Testimony in the three-week trial concluded Thursday, and Riverside County Superior Court Judge Timothy Freer summoned jurors back to the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta Monday morning and afternoon to hear closing arguments.
The prosecution will submit its rebuttal Tuesday morning, after which jury deliberations are slated to start.
The defendant is being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Byrd Detention Center.
DeGonia spotlighted much of what he packed into a trial brief, pointing to the frequent brawls between the brothers as corroboration of their underlying animosities, fueled by excessive alcohol consumption.
On the night of June 16, 2019, another altercation erupted inside the Mancia family home in the 40000 block of San Ignacio Road.
“It spilled into the hallway, then into the living room,” the prosecutor told jurors.
The intensity of the clash drove Edgar Mancia’s girlfriend to flee from the residence and return to her own for safety, according to the prosecution.
DeGonia recalled how the brothers were using everything they could get their hands on to strike each other, including a towel rack torn out of a bathroom wall.
DeGonia said that, ultimately, Edgar Mancia used deadly force, probably in the form of a .308 caliber rifle, to end the fight and snuff out his brother’s life.
“Actions have consequences,” the prosecutor said. “The defendant must be held accountable for his actions.”
Defense attorney Michael Scafiddi told jurors that they were being asked to convict his client of murder “based on purely circumstantial evidence” and an “error-filled investigation.”
“The police were searching for the body in a cave last November,” Scafiddi said. “No one is 100% sure what happened to him.”
Scafiddi emphasized the size difference between the siblings — Daniel Mancia at 6 feet 2 inches and 230 pounds, and the defendant at 5 feet 11 inches and 180 pounds — as an important element regarding who likely had the upper hand during the fight.
“Daniel breaks my client’s face,” the attorney said, adding that “whatever act was committed” by Edgar Mancia to protect himself was likely justified.
Scafiddi said instead of the scenario outlined by the prosecution, in which the defendant shoots his brother and manages to transport his body where it will never be found, it’s possible the victim left the residence in a highly agitated state following the clash and met with foul play elsewhere.
The attorney pointed to the numerous marijuana farms in the area that are often occupied by armed individuals who will shoot trespassers. He said Daniel Mancia could have wandered onto one and been killed, then thrown into a ditch.
The victim’s vehicle was found disabled, crashed into a berm four miles from the residence.
“He could have been attacked by wild animals and dragged away,” Scafiddi said.
The bottom line, according to the attorney, is that there is no DNA evidence, “no smoking gun” and no witnesses, leaving open any number of possibilities.
He blamed some of the investigative shortcomings on sub-par law enforcement work, suggesting whatever trail might have been left by the victim was lost soon after the battle inside the house.
According to DeGonia’s brief, in an interview with detectives within a couple of days of his brother’s disappearance, “Edgar claimed he remembered Daniel was on top of him, and at some point, Daniel choked him. Edgar said he … may have obtained a kitchen utensil and stabbed Daniel.”
The .308 caliber rifle was located hidden in bushes to the rear of the property.
“Some of the nearby residents reported hearing the sound of a gunshot that Sunday night,” DeGonia said.
According to court records, Daniel Mancia has a felony drunken driving conviction from 2014.