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Defense casts doubts about 3rd murder suspect

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POSTED August 9, 2013 12:28 a.m.

STOCKTON – Nobody argues that Justin Wilson was stopped by police on June 22 while riding a yellow motorcycle. That much is clear.

But whether Wilson was actually on the bike when it was ridden to the Williamson Road home of Michael Lawrence earlier that night – the scene of a confrontation that turned deadly when Lawrence was shot three times – remains to be seen.

Samuel Behar, the public defender assigned to represent Wilson, used testimony by one of the other two men being charged with the murder of the 52-year-old Lawrence to raise the shadow of a doubt that his client actually left the bar they had been all been drinking at that night during the fourth day of a preliminary hearing before Judge George J. Abdallah Jr. Thursday.

Despite objections by deputy district attorney Janet Smith, Abdallah allowed Behar to question lead sheriff’s department investigator Steve McCulloch about the statement he took from 36-year-old Christopher Oliver – who is also being charged with murder – when he was arrested several days after Lawrence was gunned down.

While Wilson was arrested immediately for weapons that he had on his person, Oliver sustained a pair of gunshot wounds – once in the hand and once in the stomach – after, according to the account he gave, riding the motorcycle of Michael Roessler from The Islander Tavern to the house around the corner.

Roessler, according to the account, rode Wilson’s bike. And after Oliver was shot (Roessler was reportedly the first gunman) he rode back to The Islander and had Fernando Delgado give him a ride to San Joaquin County Hospital where he sought treatment for his wounds. Investigators took him into custody for his role the moment he was discharged.

Witnesses reported seeing two men – one riding a yellow motorcycle and another on a purple one – ride up to the scene. Roessler was initially pegged as the gunman, and while his attorney Vittoria Bossi said she objected to the reading of Oliver’s account, agreed that it needed to be heard, “lies and all.”

Thursday was supposed to mark the end of a whirlwind evidentiary hearing that was set to comply with the speedy trial rights of Roessler and Wilson – who remain in county lockup without bail options – and Delgado, who appeared in court on his own recognizance.

But Behar’s questioning of McCulloch, which began right before Abdallah broke court for lunch, appeared to derail the schedule and possibly force another day.

According to Smith, if the case does go to trial – her office had 73 pieces of evidence accepted by the judge Thursday – it could come as early as 45 days from now depending on whether Roessler, Wilson or Delgado choose to “waive time.”

Oliver is on a completely different court schedule.

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