Los Gatos Murder For Hire Trial Makes It to Court

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    NEWSLETTERS

    On paper, today is the start of a long awaited murder trial that rocked the tiny South Bay town of Los Gatos.

    A former bar owner, Mark Achilli, was shot seven times in his driveway back in March 2008.

    Murder For Hire Trial Begins in South Bay

    [BAY] Murder For Hire Trial Begins in South Bay
    A homicide case that shocked the tiny town of Los Gatos reads like a network television drama. (Published Monday, Aug 2, 2010)

    His accused killer was the man he sold the bar to, Paul Garcia.

    Prosecutors say Achilli's death was a murder-for-hire motivated by a love triangle.  The object of affection was a Los Gatos bar manager.

    Monday, jury selection begins with opening statements set for later this month.

    Prosecutors will try to prove Garcia paid $9,500 to have Achilli killed.

    Garcia and two of the men he allegedly hired to kill Achilli will be tried together.  They all face a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole.  Two other men prosecutors claim were involved in Achilli's death will testify in exchange for lighter sentences.

    The case has elements straight out of a television drama.  Police found a torn piece of paper with Achilli's photograph on it at the crime scene.  They also found a book on how to be a hit-man at the Southern California home of one of the suspects.  Prosecutors also say they have text messages between Garcia and the woman begging her to break up with Achilli.

    The defense attorney, Harry Robertson,
    told the San Jose Mercury News that he will try to prove it wasn't a murder-for-hire and instead a drug deal got bad.

    Robertson declined to reveal his whole case before trial. But he signaled he plans to attack the prosecution witnesses. He claims they're lying to dodge murder charges or to cover up other crimes - including pilfering cash from the bars or dealing drugs in to-go food containers out of the back door.

    Achilli started as a bartender at Carry Nations in downtown Los Gatos and worked his way to owning the watering hole across the street Mountain Charley's and another one called 180.  He sold both to his alleged killer before his death.

    The woman at the center of the love triangle testified at the preliminary hearing. She said she was engaged to Achilli at the time of his death and says she had no interest in Garcia.  The defense may try to discredit their relationship.  He told the Merc, "We are going to call Mark Achilli's fiancee to the witness stand - and it won't be Tessa Donnelly," Robertson told the paper.