FRESNO – A Fresno man is standing trial for murder in a case that initially had investigators stumped.
In March 2009, Fresno police discovered a taxi cab smashed into a palm tree at Kearney Boulevard near Hughes Avenue in southwest Fresno. The driver, Jose Martinez, was found dead and covered in blood behind the wheel.
Although at first it appeared to be just an accident, police soon started seeing signs of foul play, including a bullet in the back of the head that was disguised by all of the blood. In addition, the driver’s watch had been removed from his wrist and placed on top of his forearm, according to investigators. They also discovered that Martinez’ wallet appeared to be missing.
A few months after the incident, investigators had a break in the case when they discovered another person’s DNA mixed up with the blood of the victim. The DNA belonged to Fresno resident Koua Xiong, leading investigators to believe he was a passenger in the car at the time of the accident.
“That’s the bulk of the case: dead taxi driver, Mr. Xiong’s blood all over the car, including inside the pockets of the victim,” prosecutor Robert Romanacce said in opening trial statements Tuesday.
The prosecution also stated that the defendant told investigators he had never been in the car and tried to escape during police questioning.
The defense claims the evidence presented by the prosecution doesn’t prove anything substantial. Public defender Scott Baly said Tuesday that the presence of DNA does not mean that person is guilty of first degree murder.
Xiong was on probation at the time of the murder and faces life in prison if convicted.