an example of a man raising a knife. Photo from Pixabay.
An example of a man raising a knife not connected to allegations in this story. Photo from Pixabay.

A Jan. 31 trial date was confirmed Monday for a 21-year-old man accused of stabbing two partygoers, one fatally, during an altercation involving a mass of people gathered in the Santa Ana River bottom in Riverside.

Raul Sanchez of Rialto was arrested in March 2021 following a month-long investigation into the slaying of 19-year-old Raul Saldana beneath a Pomona (60) Freeway overpass.

Sanchez is charged with murder, attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon resulting in great bodily injury.

During a status hearing Monday at the Riverside Hall of Justice, Riverside County Superior Court Judge John Molloy conferred with the prosecution and defense regarding trial scheduling, and both sides tentatively agreed to clear their calendars by the end of January for proceedings.

Sanchez is being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside.

According to Riverside police Officer Ryan Railsback, an outdoor party involving “thousands of people” in the river bottom was underway when a fight erupted in the predawn hours of Feb. 28, 2021.

Railsback alleged that Sanchez was in the middle of it and pulled a knife, inflicting mortal wounds on Saldana, as well as stabbing another man several times.

The partygoers dispersed immediately afterward, and both Saldana and the other victim, whose name was withheld, were driven by friends to Riverside Community Hospital.

Saldana died in the emergency room, while the second victim underwent surgery and survived. He has since recovered.

In the ensuing weeks, homicide detectives gathered statements and obtained additional evidence that ultimately pointed to Sanchez as the alleged perpetrator, according to Railsback.

The defendant was taken into custody without incident on March 25, 2021, in Rialto, after which the Saldana family released a statement thanking Riverside police and expressing confidence that the arrest would “bring us closer to getting justice for Raul.”

The specific motive for the brawl under the freeway bridge has not been determined.

The defendant has no documented prior felony convictions in Riverside County.

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