San Diego's courts saw a busy year

By KELLY WHEELER

City News Service

As 2009 began, a young man from La Jolla was convicted of second-degree murder for sucker-punching a professional surfer during a fight in front of the victim's mother's home nearly two years earlier.

Seth Cravens, now 23, was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison for delivering the blow that killed 24-year-old Emery Kauanui.

Months earlier, four other young men from La Jolla - Eric House, Matthew Yanke, Orlando Osuna and Hank Hendricks - pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in Kauanui's death and were given jail terms ranging from 90 to 349 days.

As 2009 came to a close, House, Yanke and Osuna were arrested for violating terms of their probation, including an order not to associate with one another. They each could be sent to prison when they are sentenced next month.

In April 2009, the son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and three other young men from the Sacramento area were arrested and charged with murder in the stabbing death of a 22-year-old Mesa College student during a fight near San Diego State University.

Esteban Nunez, Rafael Garcia, Ryan Jett and Leshanor Thomas were charged in the death of Luis Santos.

Garcia - the son of an administrative law judge - pleaded guilty in September to a charge of conspiracy to destroy evidence and agreed to cooperate with authorities in the case against his co-defendants. Nunez, Jett and Thomas are scheduled to go on trial in April.

On Dec. 15, a drifter with a history of DUI convictions was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison for driving his friend's truck while drunk in Pacific Beach and killing a 24-year-old woman walking in a crosswalk.

Alan Lester Mabrey, 46, was convicted of second-degree murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and hit-and-run in the death of Emily Dowdy.

In Juvenile Court, a 17-year-old boy was sentenced to probation and up to 547 days in a juvenile camp after pleading guilty to driving drunk and causing an accident in Rancho Santa Fe that killed a classmate at Torrey Pines High School.

Also in December, alleged juror misconduct caused a mistrial in the case against a former fifth-grade teacher accused of having sex with two boys who were once in her class. Adrienne Feistel, 36, faces 17 charges in the molestation case. A decision on a possible retrial is expected in January.

In one of the strangest court cases of the year, a man was bound over for trial in the death of an 80-year-old Hemet resident he befriended and allegedly killed and encased in a cement orb he build in the backyard of a home in North Park. Thomas Jeffrey Brooks, 41, is charged with killing Edward Clayton Andrews and draining his bank accounts.

According to court testimony, Andrews liked to correspond with men in prison and met Brooks when the defendant was released from custody. Brooks is scheduled to go to trial sometime next year.

In October, a Rancho Bernardo man was charged with murder for allegedly attacking and stabbing a 28-year-old neighbor while she was on the phone with her mother. Richard Saldivar, 40, is accused in the death of Jennifer Lee Jones.

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