The three men that authorities believe are responsible for the shooting death of a 51-year-old Manteca man back in June will find out Monday when their case will go to trial.
Michael Roessler, 23, Justin Wilson, 22, and Christopher Oliver, 36, are all set to appear before San Joaquin Superior Court Judge Bernard J. Garber on Monday in Department 23 at 9 a.m. at the Stockton Courthouse. All three are being charged with the murder of Michael Lawrence after a dispute outside of a Manteca bar ended in gunfire on June 22.
While the details of the case remain somewhat shaky, officials believe that an argument outside of The Islander Tavern eventually led to an altercation in which Roessler and Oliver – both on motorcycles – followed Lawrence back to his Weatherbee Lake home.
During the ensuing exchange Lawrence was shot in the head – an incident that, according to witnesses, took place in front of his 8-year-old daughter – and Oliver received gunshot wounds to his left hand and his abdomen. Roessler ended up crashing his motorcycle while trying to flee the scene and both men ended up hospitalized as a result. They were arrested and charged with the murder immediately after being discharged.
Wilson was arrested the same night and charged with a weapons violation, but was ultimately released. Manteca Police officers arrested him a few days later and he was subsequently charged with Lawrence’s murder. A fourth man – 21-year-old Fernando Delgado – was also arrested and charged with being an accessory after the fact. He is believed to have assisted with transporting Oliver to seek medical attention. His charges are being handled separately.
According to Assistant District Attorney Janet Smith, the decision on whether all three men will be tried together will likely come during Monday’s court appearance – scheduled as last-step verification to make sure that all of the transcripts and all of the evidence is lined up before things proceed to the next step.
The schedules of individual counsel led to different scheduled for the three men during the pre-trial process. Smith – who said back in September that the investigation into what actually transpired was still ongoing and the unwillingness of witnesses to come forth and make statements was hampering efforts – said it will be up to the judge to determine whether they’ll face a jury together or separately.
Each defendant is facing a host of other felony charges on top of premeditated murder. Roessler – the first person arrested in the case – is being charged with multiple firearms violations and assaulting a police officer, and all three are being charged with conspiracy.
Oliver is the only one eligible for bail, which has been set at $2.5 million.