Suspects in Carson City murder case bound over for trial
Six suspects allegedly involved in the murder of 18-year-old Grant Watkins were all bound over for trial on Friday.
Day five of the preliminary hearing began with the continuation of testimony from a seventh defendant, Kennan Blackmore, 19, who took the witness stand to tell the court what happened the night of the murder.
Reed Skenandore, 21; Jesus Garcia-Manriquez, 18; Allen Garcia-Manriquez, 19; Jonathan Skenandore, 18; Daniel Lease, 20; and Jacob Huttman, 19 were all in Judge John Tatro’s Justice Court for their preliminary hearing for the Jan. 11 murder of Watkins.
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 Skenandore, 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 Reed Skenandore allegedly shot Watkins.
Blackmore was being charged with felony accessory charges, however, he took a plea deal with the Carson City District Attorney’s office and testified against his co-defendants. Blackmore was allegedly on scene at the time of the murder, though didn’t witness the shooting, he told the court Thursday.
Defense attorneys cross examined Blackmore, who claimed though he didn’t witness the actual shots, he was told and believed the shooting was an accident. Blackmore told the courts Jonathan Skenandore, Reed Skenandore, Huttman and Lease were all long-time friends, and he had only become friends with the Garcia brothers and Watkins for a short time.
Blackmore testified it was Jesus Garcia-Manriquez who set up the drug deal and planned the robbery out, and the rest of the group just went along with it, when Reed Skenandore “accidently” discharged the gun, hitting Watkins.
“Reed said ‘I didn’t mean to (shoot Watkins), it was an accident,’” Blackmore said. “He said that he was sorry.”
“I hope that none of them get sentenced too harshly because none of them deserve it,” Blackmore added. “No one intended for anyone to get hurt.”
The court also heard testimony from Carson City Sheriff’s Office Deputies Josh Chaney, the SET/SWAT member who aided in evidence recovery, and Jarrod Adams, who testified about surveillance footage of the Skenandore apartment the night of the murder.
A point of contention between the defense and the district attorneys was the involvement of Allen Garcia-Manriquez. The defense argued Blackmore testified Allen Garcia-Manriquez didn’t participate in the robbery-turned-murder. The DA argued Allen Garcia-Manriquez’s cell phone records told a different story, and there were multiple calls in and out from his phone to Watkins, his brother Jesus Garcia-Manriquez and the others involved.
“It is certainly circumstantial, but there is enough evidence to show that everyone was there,” said Orin Johnson, deputy district attorney.
The defense also tried to claim the shooting could have been self-defense, because Watkins had brought a BB gun and knife to the exchange as well. They tried to argue it was Watkins and his friend Jonni Escabar who were planning the robbery and Reed Skenandore allegedly shot Watkins. The DA argued self defense can’t be acceptable in a situation where the defendants were already planning to commit a crime.
“Grant may have had his hands in his pockets, he may not have, but it doesn’t matter,” Johnson said. “You can’t claim self defense if you are going to commit a robbery.”
“If it were not for the robbery, Grant Watkins would be alive today,” Johnson added.
The defense also tried to dispute conspiracy charges by claiming since the defendants didn’t explicitly spell out a plan for the robbery, that constituted it wasn’t planned.
“There is just no evidence given,” said defense attorney Noel Waters. “You are being asked to assume six people entered into an agreement to commit robbery.”
In the end, Judge Tatro bound all defendants to district court on their charges.
“This case just makes me sick at my heart,” Tatro said. “When I look at these young men, who are still kids, this just makes me sick … and now we have one life gone, done, and now your lives too.”
Reed Skenandore, Jesus Garcia-Manriquez and Jacob Huttman were charged with felony murder with a deadly weapon, felony robbery with a deadly weapon, felony assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit murder and destruction of evidence. Jonathan Skenandore was originally just charged with conspiracy and accessory charges related to the incident, but after the testimonies given, the District Attorney amended the charges to felony murder with a deadly weapon, felony robbery with a deadly weapon, felony assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit murder and destruction of evidence as well. Allen Garcia-Manriquez was charged with conspiracy to commit robbery, accessory to murder and accessory to robbery and Daniel Lease was charged with accessory to murder and accessory to robbery. Reed Skenandore, Jesus Garcia-Manriquez, Jacob Huttman and Jonathan Skenandore were all held with no bail. Daniel Lease’s bail was reduced from $75,000 to $10,000 and bail for Allen Garcia-Manriquez was set at $50,000. The arraignment for Blackmore is scheduled for April 5 and the rest are scheduled for March 29 in District Court.