The trial of Jonathan Santillan, one of two teens accused of bursting into a Garner home and gunning down a husband and wife who were unintended targets of gang retaliation, offered a window Tuesday into the police interview room.
Prosecutors played hours of videotape from a law enforcement interrogation of the teen. They plan to play another hour and 45 minutes of the recorded testimony on Wednesday morning.
Santillan and his uncle, Israel Vasquez, just a year older, are accused of murdering Jose Samual Flores Mendoza and his wife, Maria Saravia Mendoza, on Jan. 5, 2013, inside their home on Colonial Drive near Garner.
The couple, according to prosecutors, were shot multiple times. Their younger son, 3 years old at the time, was home during the shooting but left unharmed.
Santillan and Vasquez were arrested 10 days after the spray of gunfire left 40 casings littering the crime scene.
The jury of six men and six women were shown videotape Tuesday of an eight-hour interview with Santillan after his arrest. Investigators had many questions for the teen, some of which were about whether he would sign a waiver to have a lawyer, parent or guardian present as he was read his rights.
Jeff Cutler, the Raleigh attorney representing Santillan, tried earlier this year to suppress the interview evidence. He argued that investigators used improper tactics when questioning the then 15-year-old.
At the time, North Carolina law called for juveniles younger than 14 to have a parent, guardian or attorney present before any in-custody admission or confession resulting from interrogation may be admitted into evidence. On Dec. 1, the law will cover any juvenile younger than 16.
Cutler argued that detectives interrogated Santillan for several hours, pressuring and coercing him and ignoring comments he made about being hungry, tired and wanting to call his mother.
The teen also made numerous appeals to his questioners for protective custody for his sister, other family members and himself.
Paul Gessner, the Wake County Superior Court judge presiding over the trial, rejected Cutler’s attempt to quash the evidence, both earlier this year and again this week.
Before prosecutors cued up the video Tuesday, Scott Barefoot, an investigator with the Wake County Sheriff’s Office, testified that Santillan lied to him during that interview about his involvement.
Numerous times during the tape, Santillan told the investigators that he had not been at Colonial Drive.
Barefoot and Mariah Jarema, a Wake County sheriff’s detective, traded turns questioning Santillan. He responded with answers about moving to North Carolina from Texas and going to school for a while, but not in 2013, when he was arrested.
He lived with his mother, two siblings and a stepfather. His father, he said, had been kidnapped and he had not seen him for five or six years. Santillan told Jarema that he took medication to stabilize his mood and help him sleep. He said he had a girlfriend he met through school, and he told investigators that smoking gave him headaches.
Santillan became upset with his interviewers a number of times, and they left him in a room with his hands cuffed and a water bottle on a small table. While the investigators were out of the room, Santillan paced. His ball cap was turned backward. He occasionally tugged at his black T-shirt, with the slogan “Self made” on the front and “Self paid” on the back.
On one occasion, he asked for a lawyer. But then after spending time by himself, pacing and sitting, Santillan knocked on the door to get the attention of investigators. He eventually signed an agreement waiving his rights.
According to Barefoot, Santillan admitted to being in a car at the scene of a December 2012 fight that prosecutors contend was at the root of the retaliatory violence, but he denied shooting anyone then.
Early in the interview with investigators, though, Santillan asked how he could make a deal with the district attorney’s office.
He told Jarema that he knew people who thought they had made deals with investigators when they were accused of or involved in crimes , but then found out those arrangements did not hold up as the case moved forward.
The investigators told Santillan they would need more information about what he knew before awaking anyone in the district attorney’s office. They pushed for details about the Mendoza shooting.
“Look, I already told you I was not there,” Santillan said at one point, frustrated with his interviewers. “I already told you I have nothing to do with it. You ask me the questions, I answer. You cannot say I did not cooperate.”
Last week, Moises Reyes, 21, testified that he drove Santillan and Vasquez to the shooting scene and waited in a truck while they sprayed gunfire inside the Colonial Drive duplex.