By Rosalio Ahumada | The Modesto Bee
A prosecutor on Wednesday told a jury that 28-year-old Shannon Case was murdered because of racial hatred. He argued that the defendant, Joseph Dixon, shot Case because she introduced his girlfriend’s daughter to a black man.
“The evidence will show this was a planned shooting,” Deputy District Attorney Brad Nix said in court.
Dixon, 38, is accused of murder in Case’s shooting death. The Ceres woman was found dead in a parked car about 1:30 a.m. April 4, 2009, near Pelton Avenue and Hammond Street in the Robertson Road Park area.
Initially, Dixon, Desiree Mills and Madeline Lopez, Dixon’s girlfriend, all were charged with murder in Case’s death. Mills and Lopez since have accepted plea deals to lesser charges.
Mark Sullivan, Dixon’s defense attorney, told the jury that the racial hatred came from Lopez, who hated black people and had the motive to kill Case. He argued that Lopez blamed Case for introducing her daughter to Chris Saini at a party. Her daughter and Saini had a sexual encounter shortly after they met.
“You’re going to hear all this vile racism coming out of Madeline Lopez in this case,” Sullivan told the jurors.
Dixon’s trial got underway Wednesday afternoon with opening statements by both attorneys. Testimony is expected to start this morning, and the trial is estimated to last at least a few weeks.
The prosecutor said Case was in the driver’s seat of her parked Isuzu Rodeo with Saini and another man in the passenger seats. The trio was drinking and waiting for Mills, Case’s longtime friend.
A vehicle with its headlights on drove up from the opposite direction. The first shot fired hit the Isuzu’s front driver-side tire, Nix told the jury, and the second shot went through driver-side mirror and into the vehicle’s interior. Two more shots were fired as the vehicles became parallel with one another.
“These shots were straight-on and went through the Isuzu’s driver-side door,” Nix said to the jurors.
One of the shots struck Case’s legs. The prosecutor said two more shots were fired at Case; one hit her in the chest and the other struck her head.
The other vehicle drove away as Saini and the other passenger pulled Case out of the vehicle and shielded her from any more gunshots in case the shooter returned. Case bled to death shortly before police arrived.
The prosecutor said the incident that created the shooting’s motive occurred at the party where Saini met Lopez’s daughter. Nix claimed that Saini and Mills had tried to have sex at that party, but she was too drunk. He said Saini left that room and was introduced to Lopez’s daughter.
Lopez later told investigators that Mills set up the meeting to lure Case near the park late at night, according to the prosecutor. He said Lopez will tell the jury that Dixon made up his alibi on the night of the shooting.
Another witness told investigators that he saw Dixon and Lopez pick up a sawed-off rifle hours before the shooting occurred, Nix told the jury. He also argued that cellphone records show Dixon using Lopez’s phone near the park around the time of the shooting.
The defense attorney said the “real evidence” will show his client is not guilty, and that the prosecution’s witnesses have no credibility. He said there is no eyewitness who spotted Dixon at the crime scene, and that there is no murder weapon, fingerprints or DNA evidence linking his client to the killing.
Sullivan told the jury that Modesto police recovered a .22 caliber shell casing at the crime scene, but that the department lost the evidence.
“The only physical evidence collected at the crime scene, and it’s gone,” Sullivan said in court.
He argued that his client had no motive to kill Case because he didn’t know the woman. The defense attorney also said the passengers in Case’s vehicle initially told police that they saw a Latino male with a shaved head in the shooter’s vehicle.
Sullivan argued that it was Lopez and her family who had the motive to shoot Case.
“This is a family that took care of business and then blamed my client for the result,” Sullivan said.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2394. Follow him on Twitter @ModBeeCourts.