Day 2: Preliminary hearing for 6 accused in Carson City drug deal murder case
The friend who drove an 18-year-old Carson City man to the hospital after he was shot in a drug deal gone bad took the witness stand Tuesday during the preliminary hearing in the murder of Grant Watkins.
Reed Skenandore, 21; Jesus Garcia-Manriquez, 18; Allen Garcia-Manriquez, 19; Jonathan Skenandore, 18; Daniel Lease, 20; and Jacob Huttman, 19 are all in Judge John Tatro’s Justice Court for their preliminary hearing in the murder of Jan. 11 murder of Watkins.
Reed Skenandore, Jesus Garcia-Manriquez and Huttman are all charged with felony open murder, felony murder with the use of a deadly weapon committed in the perpetration of a robbery, felony robbery with a deadly weapon, felony attempted murder with a deadly weapon and conspiracy to commit robbery. Jonathan Skenandore, Lease, Allen Garcia-Manriquez were all arrested on accessory to commit murder and accessory to robbery. Two others also were arrested.
Watkins was killed after being shot in the abdomen in an early morning drug deal-turned-robbery, detectives said. Detectives believe Watkins was meeting with Reed, Jesus Garcia-Manriquez, Keenan Blackmore, Jonathan Skenandore and Huttman around 12:30 a.m. at Blackwell’s Pond Park to sell the men three ounces of marijuana when one of the three shot Watkins.
Jonni Escabar-Ruiz, 18, the friend that was with Watkins and transported him to the hospital testified they had been at his house the night of Jan. 10, smoking weed and hanging out when Watkins got a call from Jesus Garcia-Manriquez around 11:30 p.m. Jesus Garcia-Manriquez asked Watkins to sell him three ounces of marijuana, Escabar testified.
Escabar said he drove himself and Watkins to the park and after 20 minutes another vehicle pulled up about 30 feet behind them and flashed their brights to indicate that the buyers were there. He said Watkins got out of the car, with his hands in the pocket of his hoodie sweatshirt, and started walking toward the other vehicle. Escabar said he was watching Watkins in the rearview mirror, and that the 18-year-old only got about 10 feet from Escabar’s vehicle before the other occupants got out of their vehicle. He said Watkins hesitated.
“I heard the gunshot and then I just saw him fall,” Escabar said.
After Watkins fell to the ground the vehicle’s passenger quickly walked up and took the marijuana out of Watkin’s pocket. Escabar then exited his vehicle with a switchblade knife that Watkins had given him and started to charge toward the driver of the vehicle.
“I got out and charged him with the knife when the driver said ‘stay back,’” Escabar said. “I took a few more steps and saw him raise his arm with the gun and I hit the ground.”
Escabar said he heard two shots go near his head and he laid on the ground until the suspects got back into their car and drove off. Once the men had left, Escabar went to Watkins and saw that he had been hit. He tried to help his friend.
“I tried to drag him by his shoulders, but I couldn’t, so I reversed my car next to him and dragged him into the passenger seat,” Escabar said. “He just kept saying that he was upset because he would have just given them the drugs without being shot. He was in agony and he was in pain and kept saying he couldn’t feel his legs.”
“I just kept trying to keep him awake and talking to me,” Escabar said.
The defense argued that perhaps it was Watkins and Escabar who went to the park to rob the buyers, because Watkins brought the knife and a BB gun, but Escabar said they did that because the change of venue was suspicious. Escabar said Watkins had the BB gun tucked into his pants, but never exposed it.
The defense also targeted Escabar as a criminal, asking him about his employment, his schooling, past traffic tickets, drug use and even asking if he had been born in the United States. Attorney Kay Ellen Armstrong even told Escabar that they “seem to be in an (dope) enterprise together,” even though Escabar told the courts that he never helped Watkins sell, just drove him to deals because his friend didn’t have a vehicle. Several of the attorneys questioned the court and the District Attorney about why Escabar wasn’t being brought up on charges related to the marijuana sale.
“It is interesting because it seems this is pretty close to the crimes outlined in our criminal complaints,” said defense attorney Noel Waters.
Deputy District Attorney Orrin Johnson said they “could not imagine a scenario” where they would pursue criminal charges against Escabar because the marijuana charges were not as important as the homicide. Johnson denied that the DAs office had granted immunity to Escabar in exchange for his testimony, stating he was a participatory witness and that their office was not interested in pursing criminal charges against the teenager, stating that it would not be in the interest of justice.
Until Tuesday, it had not been made clear who the shooter was or who was actually at the park that night, however one witness testified to hearing the whole robbery plan and knowing who pulled the trigger.
Brandon McGee also testified in court Tuesday, stating he was at the apartment of Reed Skenandore the night of Jan. 10 when the seven planned the robbery. McGee testified he had been at the apartment with both Skenandore brothers, Jacob and Jonathan Huttman, Jesus Garcia-Manriquez, and Blackmore when Jonathan Skenandore said they should rob Watkins for the marijuana.
“Jonathan got a phone call and said he had a way to come up off with three ounces of week,” McGee said. He told the court that “come up off” was slang for robbery.
McGee said Reed Skenandore told him to be listening to the police scanner.
“I was listening because Reed said ‘watch, listen, you’re going to hear something,’” McGee said.
McGee said he was listening to the scanner when he heard the shots fired call come through the radio.
“I got up off the couch real fast cause my heart was beating hard,” McGee said. “I called Reed and I asked if they shot their guns and he said ‘don’t tell nobody, but I shot someone.’”
McGee said he went to meet the six at the Huttman residence and when he got there, Jonathan Skenandore had started disassembling Reed Skenandore’s gun and had it soaking in a bowl of bleach. McGee testified the others told him that Jonathan Skenandore was going to rob Watkins, but didn’t because they knew each other, so Reed Skenandore got out of the vehicle and had the gun pointed at Watkins. McGee testified that Reed Skenandore told him that Watkins had his hands in his pocket; Reed Skenandore asked Watkins to remove them, but when Watkins started to remove his hands Reed shot him. McGee said the others told him that Watkins fell to his knees and Jesus went and took the drugs. They told McGee that Jacob Huttman also had shot his gun a few times, but didn’t hit anyone.
McGee also said that Reed had his clothes bagged and was going to take it out to Lease’s residence in Dayton, where Carson City Detective David LeGros testified Monday that they found partially burned clothes and the dismantled gun pieces buried in the Dayton hills.
The only two not present were Keenan Blackmore, 19 and Jonathan Huttman, 17. The reasoning why Blackmore was not present in court would be explained later in the proceedings, Assistant District Attorney Kristen Luis said.
The hearing is expected to last at least another three days.
Read day 1 coverage here.