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Weatherbee murder case set to go to trial

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POSTED August 1, 2014 1:22 a.m.

The three men believed to be responsible for gunning down a 51-year-old Weatherbee Lake man in front of his family will begin their murder trial on Aug. 11.

Michael Roessler, 23, Christopher Oliver, 36, and Justin Wilson, 22, have been held in the San Joaquin County Jail since last June after they were taken into custody by authorities following the shooting that is believed to have stemmed from a disagreement between Michael Lawrence, an electrician that lived on the 800 block of Weatherbee Road, and the men that were drinking at the nearby Islander Mobile Home Park.

According to authorities, Lawrence had ridden his offroad-style motorcycle to the bar to buy beer and ice and at least one of the men made a comment about his mode of transportation as he was leaving. Words were exchanged, and Lawrence eventually left. After a short period of time, authorities believe that Roessler and Oliver rode their Harley Davidson motorcycles out towards Lawrence’s home and found him when he came outside. A fight ensued, and at least one of the men pulled out a gun.

He died from a gunshot wound to the head.

Oliver was also shot during the scuffle – possibly by Roessler’s gun – in the hand and the stomach. He was taken to the hospital where authorities apprehended him once he was discharged.

Roessler crashed on a motorcycle while fleeing the scene on McKinley Avenue and was also hospitalized and arrested when discharged. Wilson was arrested the same night for a weapons charge, released, and then rearrested several days later when the case came into sharper focus. A fourth man, 21-year-old Fernando Delgado, is believed to have driven a vehicle that aided at least one of the men in getting medical assistance and is facing charges of being an accessory after the fact. He was not charged with murder and has been able to appear in court on his own recognizance.

Supervising deputy district attorney Janet Smith, who was assigned the case from the start, worked to align the trial of the three men who each had different legal timetables and strategies. She said early on that the case did not appear to be gang-related, and investigators have not disclosed whether any of the men have ties with outlaw motorcycle gangs either as members or known associates.

The first day of the trial, Monday, Aug. 11, will be for motions followed by jury selection. The presentation of evidence will follow.

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