Judge weighs self-defense claim in Olivehurst shooting
Conflicting accounts and arguments over the legal definition of "self-defense" colored a lengthy preliminary hearing on Tuesday for an Olivehurst man charged with killing a man and shooting a woman last year.
Gabriel Natal, 34, has pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder of Joseph Stancil Jr. and shooting Stancil's fiancee, Rosie Wheeler, during a large neighborhood dispute on May 18 in the 3000 block of Brougham Way.
Questions in the courtroom on Tuesday centered around whether Natal could legally claim he was defending himself when he shot and killed Stancil, who had reportedly been antagonizing Natal's friends and family throughout the day.
Prosecutors said Natal had no right to confront Stancil with a gun, despite numerous accounts of Stancil harassing Natal's friends and family.
"It's Mr. Stancil's constitutional right to the be the biggest jackass that he wants to be," said Mike Byrne, deputy Yuba County district attorney.
Byrne also described Stancil as "belligerent," "obnoxious" and "a Nazi," but argued Stancil had the right to defend his home with a firearm when confronted by Natal.
Natal's attorney, Roberto Marquez, argued exactly the opposite, saying Stancil was the aggressor and Natal was defending himself and his girlfriend, Noemi Mitchell.
Several witness accounts on both sides have changed significantly over time and both sides have claimed to be innocent victims who were attacked without reason.
Prosecutors acknowledged that many of the facts depend on "who you believe."
Witnesses indicated that Stancil was armed and possibly pointing a handgun when Natal opened fire. Medical evidence indicates Stancil may have been running away. Byrne noted that Stancil was shot in the back, the ribs and on the back of his foot.
"That can only happen if he's fleeing," Byrne said.
The core of the confusing bitterness between the two groups was apparently already taking shape hours before the shooting started.
Prosecutors played a portion of a video that was shot by someone in Stancil's home a few hours before the shooting. The video depicts two Yuba County sheriff's deputies being verbally attacked by Stancil and Wheeler. The deputies had been called to Brougham Way numerous times on May 18 regarding neighborhood disputes.
"They're blaming it on you guys, you guys are blaming it on them," Deputy Roger Tarwater explains to Stancil on the tape.
The tape continues for several minutes, depicting Stancil on a sexually-explicit, expletive-laced rant toward two sheriff's deputies.
Judge Dennis Buckley said he would take the night to review numerous statements from witnesses and investigators and make a ruling on the case today.
Buckley said he was "only playing devil's advocate" while questioning prosecutors regarding Natal's self-defense argument, but said, "I could see a jury believing he (Natal) acted reasonably."
CONTACT Rob Parsons at email@example.com or 749-4785. Find him on Facebook at /ADcrimebeat or on Twitter at @ADcrimebeat.