updated 12/3/2008 3:06:19 PM ET 2008-12-03T20:06:19

The 19-year-old son of former California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez is among four men charged in the October stabbing death of a college student, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Esteban Nunez and the others were arrested Tuesday in Sacramento, a day after formal charges were filed in San Diego. Each is charged with murder, assault with a deadly weapon and vandalism, said Paul Levikow, a spokesman for the San Diego County District Attorney's Office.

Levikow said the office would have no further comment until an arraignment set for Thursday. The suspects face a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted of murder.

Fabian Nunez, who stepped down as Assembly speaker this year because of term limits, emerged from his home in a neighborhood near Sacramento State University on Wednesday morning and got into a Ford Expedition with his wife and two younger children. He shook his head and refused to talk to a reporter before heading to Sacramento International Airport.

"I have no comment," the 41-year-old said when reached later inside an airport terminal.

He referred media inquiries to Carlsbad defense attorney C. Bradley Patton, who did not immediately return a telephone call Wednesday.

Esteban Nunez was arrested as he left his father's Sacramento home, while the others were arrested elsewhere in the Sacramento area. Police were taking the suspects to San Diego on Wednesday.

It was not publicly known that Esteban Nunez was a suspect until his arrest, though San Diego police detectives had searched the Northern California homes of all four suspects about a week after the Oct. 4 stabbing.

"The subjects knew about the warrants," San Diego police Capt. Jim Collins told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "They just didn't know when the hammer would fall."

Ryan Jett, Leshanor Thomas and Rafael Garcia, all 19, face the same charges as Esteban Nunez, police said.

'Nothing can bring my son back'
Police allege the four men got into a fight with the victim, Luis Santos, 22, and four of his friends as they left a party near San Diego State University. Three young men were stabbed and Santos, a student at San Diego Mesa College, died at the scene.

"I'm glad they arrested the people involved in my son's murder," Santos' father, Fred Santos, told the Union-Tribune from his home in the San Francisco Bay area city of Concord. "Who these people are, who their parents are, doesn't make the pain less or more. It changes nothing. Nothing can bring my son back."

Esteban Nunez and at least one of the other suspects are college students in the Sacramento area, Collins said, and were visiting San Diego when the fight broke out.

"They came down here to visit friends and party," he said.

A female witness came forward in the hours after the fight and told police she had information about the suspects, allowing police to trace them to Sacramento, Collins said.

One of the suspects was injured during the brawl, Collins said, but he would not specify which one. He said no one else was arrested in connection with the fight.

Father's political career
An assemblyman for six years and speaker since 2004, Fabian Nunez was the longest-serving speaker in California's era of term limits. Born in San Diego but raised in Mexico until age 7, he is an immigrant-rights advocate and former union organizer.

The Los Angeles Democrat cultivated a close relationship with Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that resulted in landmark changes in the state's global warming and labor laws.

Nunez was unsuccessful in a bid to extend his own tenure in office. In February, voters rejected a ballot initiative designed by Democrats to change the state's term-limits law.

After the initiative failed, Nunez ended speculation that he might run for another political office — at least in the near future.

"Once I'm done here, I think I'll stay away from politics for a couple years at least," he said in February. "And then if I get real comfortable, I might never come back into it."

This week he started a new job in the Sacramento office of the New York-based consulting firm Mercury Public Affairs.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments