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Murder suspect's sister charged with single felony
The sister of a Yuma man suspected of beating another man to death with a baseball bat last month has been charged with a single felony for allegedly helping her brother avoid apprehension.
Blanca Bustamante, 21, appeared in Yuma Justice Court on Tuesday with her attorney Victoria Thompson, who waived the formal reading of the complaint and advisement of her client's rights. Court records, however, indicate Bustamante was charged with a single felony count of hindering prosecution.
Her brother, Manuel Bustamante, 30, is wanted in the April 18 bludgeoning death of 33-year-old Kendal Smith. She was arrested at her home in the 600 block of Country Club Lane in Yuma after deputies developed a lead concerning the possible location of the suspects.
A second suspect, Jonathon Roger Ochoa, 27, was arrested Tuesday afternoon by the Yuma County Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Marshals Service.
During the brief court hearing, which was before Yuma Justice of the Peace Pro Tem Yolanda Torok, Thompson asked the court if her client, who is being held on a $150,000 bond, could be released into the custody of pretrial release.
“I do believe the current bond amount is appropriate,” said prosecutor Levi Gunderson, of the Yuma County Attorney's Office, in opposition of the request.
Thompson told the court her client, Bustamante, has been a lifelong resident of Yuma County, never been in trouble with the law, was not wanted in the murder and was not helping her brother avoid arrest as the YCSO is alleging.
Thompson contended that evidence would show that the car her client's brother was driving when he was recently spotted by deputies did not belong to her, it had only been purchased under her name.
She also criticized the sheriff's office for the manner in which her client was arrested. Thompson told the court that her client received a call from the sheriff's office saying she could come pick up the car, but when she got there she was detained, questioned and later arrested.
Thompson called the arrest a tactic a “blinding sweep” to put pressure on the suspects to turn themselves in because their loved ones are being taken into custody.
Torok ordered the bond remain at the current amount and scheduled Bustamante's next court date, a preliminary hearing, for 4 p.m. on May 7.
In addition to allegedly providing her brother with a vehicle, YCSO claims that Bustamante allowed her brother to hide out at her home.
James Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/YSJamesGilbert or on Twitter @YSJamesGilbert.