KINGMAN — A Superior Court judge on Tuesday rejected holding without bond a Bullhead City man accused in a fatal drive-by shooting.
Benjie Junior Nunez, 34, is charged with first-degree murder, three counts of attempted first-degree murder, three counts of aggravated assault and drive-by shooting.
Deputy Mohave County Attorney Greg McPhillips called a Bullhead City detective, who testified that Nunez arranged to meet Kevin Castro Hurtado, 24, around 2 a.m. Nov. 17 for a fight in the parking lot of a store in the 2500 block of Commercial Way in Bullhead City. The two reportedly had been involved in an fight several weeks before.
Arriving first, Hurtado was accompanied by his wife and two friends but left several minutes later. Nunez’s codefendant, Brent Ryan Sekel, driving his own car, also arrived at the parking lot.
Nunez, who went home to retrieve a gun, was joined by his girlfriend and another passenger, Jonathan Arthur Wallace, as they followed the victims to the area of Marina Boulevard and Clearwater Drive, McPhillips said.
McPhillips showed a surveillance video from a charter school that showed Hurtado’s car driving through an intersection followed by Sekel’s car. Nunez’s car was waiting on a side street. Sekel’s car slowed down, allowing Nunez’s car to get behind Hurtado’s car at the intersection.
Several beeps of a car horn could be heard, which McPhillips argued was a signal between Sekel and Nunez. The three cars drove out of sight of the camera. Several seconds later, five gunshots could be heard.
McPhillips argued that Nunez was the motivator in the shooting, even if it is unclear who the shooter was. Hurtado’s wife and another man also spoke, saying Nunez was a flight risk if released. Hurtado’s wife suffered a bullet wound to her leg and was treated at a Bullhead City hospital.
Nunez’s attorney, Ken Sondgeroth, argued to release Nunez on his own recognizance or lower his bond, which previously was lowered to $1 million. Sondgeroth argued that Nunez turned himself in later that morning, spending three hours cooperating with police. Nunez’s mother also testified on his behalf.
Sondgeroth said his client has no criminal history, no history of violence, employment with his family’s business, has three children and coaches youth sports. Nunez also identified the shooter as Wallace, who allegedly fired the shots from the back seat. Wallace also possessed a 9mm gun and bullets recovered at the scene and from Hurtado’s body were 9mm.
Sondgeroth also said Nunez volunteered for police to test his hands and his car for gunshot residue. Nunez reportedly had an AK-style pistol on his lap but no bullets from that gun were found. Neither guns were recovered.
Sondgeroth also argued that Nunez didn’t know Wallace was going to fire a shot, which he argued came from the back seat of his car where Wallace was sitting, when Nunez’s car pulled alongside of Hurtado’s car.
Police still are searching for Wallace, 27, who is wanted on suspicion of murder.
Superior Court Judge Billy Sipe Jr. rejected holding Nunez without bond but also rejected lowering the $1 million bond. He questioned why Nunez went home to retrieve a gun for a fist fight but said it still isn’t known who fired the shots.
Nunez’s next hearing is set for Feb. 3.
Sekel, 23, also is charged with first-degree murder, three counts of attempted first-degree murder, three counts of aggravated assault and drive-by shooting. He is being held in custody a $120,000 bond. His case recently was set for trial to begin April 28.
Anyone with information to Wallace’s whereabouts can contact Bullhead City police dispatch number at 928-763-1999. Mohave Silent Witness is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.