A jury has finally been selected in a high-profile, gang-related murder trial in Santa Maria.
Security will be extremely tight for the trial which is expected to last several weeks.
The trial is being held at Santa Maria Juvenile Hall Court because its considered big enough to accommodate the six defendants and their attorneys as well as provide for the extra security that’s been deployed for the case.
The body of 28 year old Anthony Ibarra was found in the back of a rented U-Haul truck parked in an Orcutt neighborhood back in March of 2013.
Eleven suspects were initially taken into custody and charged in connection with what the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office says is the kidnapping, torture and murder of Anthony Ibarra over unpaid drug debts.
Six of the eleven Ibarra defendants charged with murder will be on trial when opening statements are heard Monday morning in Santa Maria Juvenile Hall Court which has been modified to accommodate the large number of people involved in the case as well as the jury.
Jury selection took nearly two months to seat the required 12 panelists and six alternates.
16 year old defendant Ramon Maldonado Jr. is being tried separately from the other six defendants for his alleged role in the murder case and will not be called to testify in the main trial.
The case is being prosecuted under extremely tight security due to alleged gang affiliations among the defendants and concerns about witness intimidation.
The case has been dubbed the U-Haul murder trial since Anthony Ibarra’s body was found nearly two years ago but its a label Santa Maria U-Haul franchise owners would like to see go away.
“I just don’t think its right, U-Haul has nothing to do with that, it happened when the truck was rented out”, says Santa Maria U-Haul franchise owner Carlos Torres, “if you found a body in the back of a Ford truck, are they going to call it the Ford murder, in the back of a Chevy truck, the Chevy murder?”