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Yuma man suspected of baseball bat slaying pleads not guilty
The Yuma man suspected of killing another man with a baseball bat was arraigned in Yuma County Superior Court Monday morning on murder and other charges before Superior Court Judge Denise Gaumont.
Although she had waved the formal reading of the complaint, Public Defender Kristi Riggins entered not guilty pleas on his behalf of her client, Manuel Bustamante, to two counts of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, conspiracy to sell narcotics, misconduct involving weapons, possession of dangerous drugs and transportation or importation of narcotics.
The charges stem from the April 18 murder of 33-year-old Kendal Smith in a case of mistaken identity.
Prosecutor Mary White of the Yuma County Attorney's Office asked that Bustamante's bond be set at a $1 million cash bond, which the judge agreed to do, despite Riggin's objection saying it was an excessive amount.
Bustamante's next court date is a condition of release hearing set for June 25 at 10 a.m. before a Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Warren J. Granville. A Phoenix judge will preside over the case due to a conflict of interest. One of the murdered man's relatives was an employee of the Justice Center, the building where the courtrooms are located.
Bustamante also has a comprehensive management conference scheduled for July 16 at 10 a.m., also before Granville.
Three other suspects — Ruben Ornelas, Jonathon Roger Ochoa and Elsey Valenzuela — also have also charged in Smith's murder. Bustamante's sister, Blanca, has also been charged with one count of hindering prosecution.
Two additional suspects have also been identified as persons of interest. Sheriff investigators and U.S. marshals are looking for Reva Renee Jackson, 35, of Yuma. She is described as 5 feet 2 inches tall, 150 pounds, with long dark hair and a medium complexion.
Also being sought is Jose Fabela Campos, 23, of Yuma. He is described as 6 feet 1 inch tall, 180 pounds, with short dark hair, a goatee and a mustache.
At about 9:13 p.m. April 18, deputies were dispatched to the 2500 block of 15th Place in reference to a disturbance involving six subjects armed with baseball bats.
Deputies were on scene in less than nine minutes, only to find Smith with blunt force trauma to the head. He was taken unconscious to Yuma Regional Medical Center and later transferred to St. Joseph's Medical Center in Phoenix, where he died.
All of the suspects had fled the scene before deputies arrived. A bloody baseball bat, however, was recovered in the area.
What deputies learned through their investigation is that prior to the murder, two people allegedly stole some drugs from Valenzuela. Smith, as it turned out, was not one of them.
Valenzuela then told her boyfriend, Bustamante, about what happened and he, along with Ochoa, Ornelas and possibly three others allegedly went to the residence in the 2500 block of 15th Place, where they thought they would find the people who had stolen the drugs.
Once there, they were confronted by Smith, who was then allegedly bludgeoned to death.
James Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/YSJamesGilbert or on Twitter @YSJamesGilbert.