Murder charge refiled against Olivehurst man
An attempted murder case was thrown out of court Friday in Yuba County, but prosecutors refiled charges against the Olivehurst defendant and added a homicide charge they had previously dismissed.
Visiting Judge R. M. Smith dismissed a single count of attempted murder against Gabriel Natal.
"We're very pleased with the judge's ruling," said Natal's attorney, Roberto Marquez, "but beyond disappointed with the prosecutors decision to refile (the homicide charge)."
Natal, 33, was arrested in connection with the May 18 shooting death of Joseph Stancil Jr. and the alleged attempted murder of Stancil's fiancee, Rosie Wheeler, during a neighborhood dispute in the 3000 block of Brougham Way in Olivehurst.
Initially, prosecutors charged Natal with murder for Stancil's death, but did not file any charges for the alleged shooting of Wheeler. However, in August, prosecutors switched their position and dismissed the homicide case and filed against Natal for the alleged attempted murder of Wheeler.
Due to ongoing criminal proceedings, prosecutors have not explained the decisions.
Smith dismissed the attempted murder case Friday and said Judge Julia L. Scrogin erred in September when she refused to allow defense witnesses to testify during a preliminary hearing.
During the hearing, Marquez tried to call several witnesses he said would testify that Stancil was armed and Natal was defending himself when he opened fire. Scrogin, however, said she didn't believe testimony regarding Stancil was relevant to the shooting of Wheeler because, at the time, Stancil's death was not part of the case.
Smith disagreed and granted the defense motion to dismiss the case.
Mechele Cook, deputy Yuba County district attorney, immediately filed a new case against Natal and charged him with shooting Wheeler and killing Stancil.
Marquez accused prosecutors of seeking "retribution" after losing Friday's motion to dismiss.
"I can't see any moral or ethical reason that would justify reinstating (the homicide) charge," Marquez said. "They dismissed that charge because of a lack of evidence, and there's been no new evidence or new witness that would justify that decision."
Cook brushed off Marquez's claim, denying any desire for retribution. Cook said she had planned to charge Natal with Stancil's murder at Friday's hearing.
"I don't necessarily disagree with the judge's ruling to dismiss," Cook said. "The decision to refile (the homicide charge) was made before the judge's ruling."
It was another complex twist in the increasingly complicated incident that split the small neighborhood on Brougham Way. Both sides claim to be innocent victims who were attacked without reason and both sides have accused each other of lying.
Natal is due back in court Nov. 14. A second preliminary hearing is set Nov. 16. He remains in custody on $2 million bail at the Yuba County Jail.
CONTACT Rob Parsons at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4785. Find him on Facebook at /ADcrimebeat or on Twitter at @ADcrimebeat.