Los Gatos Murder For Hire Trial Under Way - NBC Bay Area

Los Gatos Murder For Hire Trial Under Way



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    Today marks the start of a long-awaited murder trial that rocked the tiny town of Los Gatos.

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

    His accused killer was the man he sold the bar to, Paul Garcia.   The motive, according to prosecutors wasn't money, but the love of the same woman.  The defense counters that it was a drug deal gone bad.

    You can follow the courtroom drama at this live blog.

    Both the prosecution and the defense will make their opening arguments Wednesday in front of the seated jury.  The trial is expected to last two months.

    Three men are on trial. Garcia is joined by Miguel Chaidez and Lucio  Estrada at the defense table.   They are men he allegedly hired to kill Achilli. All three 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.

    Prosecutor Jeff Rosen will try to prove Garcia paid $9,500 to have Achilli killed.

    Wednesday morning Rosen told jurors Garcia was in love with Tessa Donnelly, a woman both Achilli and Garcia had dated, and wanted to  kill Achilli because he couldn't have her.    "Paul Garcia wanted it and paid for it, Chaidez arranged it, and  Estrada did it," Rosen said.

    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. Robertson told the Merc earlier this month, "We are going to call Mark Achilli's fiancee to the witness stand - and it won't be Tessa Donnelly."