Torture victim’s family speaks after plea hearing

Juvenal Reyes

Several months after being severely tortured by three intruders
clad in ski masks who ransacked his Gilroy residence, 59-year-old
Gary Wise encountered his attackers for a second time Tuesday.
Several months after being severely tortured by three intruders clad in ski masks who ransacked his Gilroy residence, 59-year-old Gary Wise encountered his attackers for a second time Tuesday.

This time, however, the five men police have identified as suspects in the Feb. 6 break-in and brutal assault inside Wise’s home on the 1000 block of Rucker Ave. were sporting handcuffs and neon jumpsuits.

Wise, who has snow-white hair and wore a checkered blue flannel shirt, was among the audience during a hearing at the South County Morgan Hill Courthouse on 301 Diana Ave. The victim of what police describe as a “heinous” crime appears to be on the mend after surviving a violent ambush; able to stand and displaying a normal range of motion.

Wise was not available for comment afterward but lingered outside the courtroom, quietly conversing with a small group of supporters including friends, family, neighbors and the duo of lead detectives investigating the case.

The attack took place around 9 p.m. Feb. 6 when Wise stepped through his front door and was overcome by three male suspects. As the assailants attempted to gain combinations to two safes housing a cache of valuables, they bound Wise to a chair, poured chemical substances over his face and body and beat him repeatedly with pool cues until he lost consciousness.

Police say it was Wise’s neighbor, 62-year-old Juvenal Reyes, who instigated the crime by pointing out “two safes and their contents” stored inside Wise’s residence.

“Here they were struggling to put food on the table,” said Reyes in the police report, and there was Wise with “numerous riches and large amounts of money.”

This included 75 collectible firearms, rifle scopes, binoculars and more than $20,000, which the suspects made off with. They also took more than $50,000 in casino chips, other gaming currency, pins, buckles and stamps.

Wise’s 2008 Ford F350 was stolen as well, which the suspects “deliberately set on fire and completely destroyed” around 2:30 a.m. Feb. 7 in the area of Highways 9 and 35 outside the City of Saratoga.

Days prior to the break-in, Reyes claims he “grew leery” of the other suspects and backed out. In reports he expressed remorse upon learning what cruel methods were employed to coerce the victim’s cooperation.

During their court appearance Tuesday, none of the five suspects detained in the sweeping string of May 3 arrests made pleas pertaining to charges of torture, threats of murder and burglary.

Judge Andrea Flint moved the plea dates for Juvenal Reyes, Juan Fonseca, Ernesto Gonzalez, Norberto Serna and Danny Rivera to 1:30 p.m. June 14. The hearing will take place at the same location inside the Morgan Hill Courthouse.

Afterwards Troy Benson, deputy district attorney for Santa Clara County, explained the suspects opted to waive their right to a speedy trial so defense attorneys can have more time to obtain information and prepare for upcoming hearings.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to enter their plea,” he elaborated. “They waived their right to have a preliminary hearing.”

He also added, “we’re nowhere near a trial on this case.”

One of the six suspects is a minor, whose case is being handled in juvenile court separate from the other five defendants according to Benson.

As each of the five suspects verbally agreed to having their hearing prolonged to mid-June, Reyes remained quiet and motionless. Serna appeared tense as he sat in his chair, Gonzales maintained continuous eye contact with the floor and both Rivera and Fonseca’s facial expressions were vacant and absent of emotion.

Rivera’s lawyer attempted to argue her client’s charges – possession of stolen property – were not as serious. She asked Rivera be given supervised leave, but this request was denied.

A murmur of approval rippled from friends and neighbors of Wise, who were sitting in the second row.

Benson agreed with the Flint’s decision, saying “due to the seriousness of the offenses, I don’t believe supervised O.R. (on recognizance) would be appropriate in this situation.”

“We’re grateful and happy,” said Wise’s nephew Tim Bowers when the hearing concluded.

After saying goodbye to some of his friends, Wise sat on a bench in the hallway a few feet from his nephew and remained silent.

Bowers, who has assumed the role of family spokesperson, said his uncle is “doing all right.”

Relief, he added, will come “when justice is served” and “violent criminals are behind bars.”

He motioned to Sgt. Julian Quinonez and Sgt. Ryan Elder with the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, lauding their “dogged” role in tracking down the suspects and investigating the whereabouts of expensive items stolen from Wise’s residence.

While it’s not common for detectives to attend plea hearings, Sgt. Quinonez and Sgt. Elder said they were supporting Wise, who asked them to come.

Quinonez acknowledged, “it’s good to see people responsible behind bars.”

Elder agreed, describing the investigation process as “evolving” with “little milestones everywhere.”

Though Wise is on the road to being in a “much better place,” both detectives touched on the physical and mental healing that can only occur with time.

“He’s been through a lot,” said Quinonez.

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