Bat beating death trial underway, victim’s friend testifies

Yuma

Bat beating death trial underway, victim’s friend testifies

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YUMA, Ariz. (13 On Your Side) - The trial is underway for the man accused of brutally murdering another man with a baseball bat last year.

Testimony got really intense at one point as state prosecutor William Katz questioned the victim's friend Christopher Solis. He was with Kendall Smith the night Bustamante is accused of beating him to death.

At one point inside of the courtroom, the judge had to order a 15 minute break to allow the witness to calm down. He was having an anxiety attack.

The defendant, Manuel Bustamante, on the other hand, sat still and appeared to be  calm.

During testimony Thursday, Solis was questioned about what happened before, during and after the April 18, 2012 killing of Smith.

He said they were both hanging out outside Smith's apartment drinking in celebration of the victim's birthday when a group of men armed with baseball bats and a gun ambushed them; an argument broke-out.

Solis said he ran into Smith's apartment and tried and escape through a back door but couldn't jump over a wall.

Meanwhile, he said Smith stayed behind and that's when he was beaten to death with a bat in front of his apartment.

Solis also admitted he refused to talk to police because he was not a "snitch." He also denied being able to identify Bustamante but then, after much questioning, he did. At the request of Katz, Solis stood up and pointed at Bustamante to identify him.     

Bustamante is accused of killing Smith more than a year ago. Bustamante fled to Mexico - to hide from police. Mexican police arrested Bustamante on unrelated charges and then turned him over to the U.S.   

Bustamante faces two counts of first degree murder, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, and conspiracy to sell drugs. If convicted, he faces 25-years to life in prison.

Bustamante has two codefendants, one who also faces a murder charge. The second, Elsey Valenzuela, dodged a murder charge by reaching a plea deal by agreeing to testify in the case against Bustamante.

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