Trial for 2015 murder of UCLA student progresses as witnesses testify
By Jacob Preal
May 16, 2018 10:33 p.m.
A jury heard from witnesses who lived with a man accused of murdering a UCLA student during trial proceedings Wednesday.
Alberto Medina, a former Fresno State University student, was arrested in 2015 for allegedly murdering Andrea “Andy” DelVesco, who at the time was a UCLA student. County prosecutors also allege Medina is responsible for two burglaries, an apartment fire and injuries to DelVesco’s dog that prompted her family to euthanize him.
In the second day of the trial, Deputy District Attorney Victor Avila called Joseph Macharia, who lived with Medina in a house in Fresno, California, to the stand. Macharia testified that Medina lived in a converted garage. He identified the room belonging to Medina in a photo Avila presented for the jury.
A photo of the closet for that room revealed a laptop on a shelf and a red object poking out from a trash bag on the floor. When Avila presented the laptop as evidence Tuesday, Mahir Shah, a former UCLA student who lived in an apartment that Medina allegedly burglarized, said he recognized it as his own because of the stickers on the top lid.
Avila also said in his opening statement Tuesday that a red blanket had been taken from DelVesco’s apartment.
Medina is also accused of stealing a set of speakers from the apartment where Shah lived with Diego Rubio and Nicholas Vincent, former UCLA students, in 2015.
Macharia identified a speaker Avila presented as evidence as an item Medina had given him. Macharia admitted he did not know the item was stolen and added Medina had said the items he returned to Fresno with, including the laptop, the speakers and some silverware and dishware, were given to him by a friend who was moving out of his Los Angeles apartment.
Joseph Garcia, who also lived with Medina and Macharia, said he took the other speaker that had been stolen because Medina owed him money. When Medina returned, Garcia said he also noticed he had more items than he left with, and added he first heard about DelVesco’s murder from Medina.
Garcia testified that Medina discussed possible reasons why DelVesco would have been murdered, including the possibility DelVesco had gotten in a dispute with an ex-boyfriend or had been raped before she was killed. Garcia also said Medina seemed to indicate no one would be able to catch the murderer because the individual torched the apartment and left her body unrecognizable.
“‘They’re probably not even going to be able to pin the body because it got burned so bad,’” said Garcia while recreating Medina’s dialogue in an audio recording with a detective.
Julio Santillan, who worked as a cook at UCLA in 2015, also testified, telling jurors he encountered a man matching Medina’s description just before the murder allegedly occurred.
Around 5:30 a.m., Santillan was collecting cans to recycle when a man with a large tattoo on his left arm approached him, asking him a question in English. Santillan, who needed a court translator to answer questions from the defense and prosecution, said he did not understand him at first.
Santillan told the jury the man put up his fists in a fighting pose and asked Santillan in Spanish whether he knew how to fight, because he was about to go into an apartment with women and may need help in case men were there to defend them. The man apparently gestured toward DelVesco’s apartment.
Santillan said he left the area because he was afraid of the man. He added he last saw the man walking in the direction of DelVesco’s apartment and sitting down near the steps leading up.
Debra Werbel, Medina’s defense attorney, took note of a preliminary hearing where Santillan had testified that the man who approached him appeared to be intoxicated. Although he told the jury he did not smell alcohol on the individual, Santillan gave the man a seven out of 10 in drunkenness when Avila prompted him to provide a number.
Werbel also confirmed with Thomas Montague, a Los Angeles Police Department officer who responded to a call regarding DelVesco’s apartment when the police were initially called, that there was no sign of forced entry at balcony doors leading to DelVesco’s room. Montague added he and other officers searched the area with flashlights but did not find anything.
Montague said his unit later responded to a subsequent 911 call at 7:15 a.m. because of a reported fire.
Medina’s trial is scheduled to last over the next few days as the prosecution and the defense continue collecting testimony from witnesses. It will resume Thursday.