Twin Peaks double homicide trial ends in hung jury

The trial of a 30-year-old man charged with killing two men in a Valentine’s Day shooting at the Twin Peaks Lookout in 2016 ended without a murder conviction on Friday after the divided jury failed to reach an agreement.

Richard Contreras was charged with murder in the deaths of 21-year-old Julio Peraza and 19-year-old Rene Mora, as well as the attempted murder of 18-year-old Eric Morales, who suffered a gunshot wound to the stomach but survived. He was also charged with carjacking and assault.

The jury convicted Contreras of carjacking, unlawful possession of a gun by a felon, and unlawful driving or taking of a vehicle but hung 9-3 on other charges including murder and attempted murder, according to the Public Defender’s office.

Contreras testified during the trial that he was nearly killed in an assault that took place several days prior to the shooting, and that the incident prompted him to carry a gun.

“This is an outcome that I was not convinced I could hope for,” she said. “But after talking to the jury, I’m very grateful that they found the courage to do the right thing,” said Deputy Public Defender Kleigh Hathaway.

On Feb. 14, 2016, Contreras testified that he was on a date at the popular tourist attraction when he shouted, “I’m alive, San Francisco,” and was immediately taunted by a group of men that included Peraza and Mora.

Contreras testified that he saw a gun and heard shots, and in response pulled out his own gun and fired back, hitting two men and injuring a third, according to a statement issued by Adachi’s office.

Contreras then stole a car and fled the scene.

The fatal encounter was described as a “case of self-defense” by Hathaway.

“They understood that my client was outnumbered and about to be jumped by gang members, and he did what he felt he had to do, ” Hathaway said.

Alex Bastian, spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office said that “at this point, all options are on the table including retrial as it relates to the two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder,” adding that the case is ongoing and that Contreras is expected back in court on Tuesday.

Adachi said that Contreras “showed great remorse.”

“I’m sure if he could turn back time, he never would have driven to Twin Peaks that night. Thankfully, much of the jury weighed all the details and evidence and voted with their conscience,” he said.

Laura Waxmann
Published by
Laura Waxmann

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