Paying for ‘when all hell broke loose’

Nathaniel Garcia, left, and Catrina Cameron, right, were each

A day and a half of booze, drugs and woeful decisions almost
nine months ago turned into two decades worth of jail time each for
three defendants Monday.
A day and a half of booze, drugs and woeful decisions almost nine months ago turned into two decades worth of jail time each for three defendants Monday.

Nathaniel Garcia, Catrina Cameron, and Tamaya Duenas – who last month pleaded no contest to kidnapping two men, robbing them and forcing them to jump off a Hecker Pass bridge in October 2010 – were sentenced Monday to 20 years in prison each, a fate one defense attorney called “about as minimum of a sentence that could have happened.”

Garcia, 22, Cameron, 23, and Duenas, 24, stood stoically in the Santa Clara County Superior Courthouse in Morgan Hill Monday as Judge Kenneth Shapero handed down sentences for kidnapping, robbery and assault with a deadly weapon five weeks after they reached a plea deal with prosecutors and only nine months after the crimes were committed.

Attempted murder charges were dropped as part of the plea agreement June 6, said Dana Overstreet, Santa Clara County Deputy district attorney. She said the defendants could have faced life sentences with a possibility of parole.

“We came up with that number (20 years) after examining all the facts of the case, their lack of significant criminal history and the current sentencing practices of the court,” Overstreet said, adding that a

20-year term was on par with similar cases in Santa Clara County.

Garcia and Cameron were sentenced during a 9 a.m. hearing, while Duenas was sentenced during a 1:30 p.m. slot after her attorney, James Leininger, failed to show up for the scheduled morning sentencing.

Leininger said afterwards he missed the earlier hearing because he “got the court dates mixed up.” Duenas could not have been sentenced Monday if Leininger had missed the second hearing, Overstreet said.

Following Duenas’ sentencing, Leininger called the incident “unfortunate,” and said it followed heavy substance abuse by the defendants.

“This was the result of 36 hours off-and-on of using alcohol and drugs,” he said. “Then all hell broke loose. It was just crazy behavior.”

Cameron, Garcia and Duenas lured Jose Hernandez and Fernando Aguilar into Duenas’ apartment in 8800 block of Lilly Avenue in Gilroy on Oct. 25, 2010, according to court documents.

Cameron said the night started with heavy drinking – potent mixers of energy drink and malt liquor known as Four Lokos – and ended with the two victims taped and blindfolded at Sprig Lake, according to a police report.

At the apartment, Aguilar began staring at Cameron, then showed her four condoms he was carrying with him. Infuriated by the apparent sexual advance, Cameron took Aguilar by the wrist and pierced the condoms with a folding knife she carried in her purse, according to the report.

“If you think you’re going to take something from me, I’m going to take something from you,” Cameron recalled saying, according to court documents. The report states she then asked for Hernandez’s truck keys and said she was going to take the truck and his money because she was angry.

“They were operating at a level only someone under the influence could have,” Leininger said Monday.

Police said Cameron peered into Hernandez’s truck and saw she would not be able to drive it because it included a manual transmission. She then asked Garcia to drive, according to the report.

Garcia walked with her into the house with a gun and told Aguilar and Hernandez to get in the truck. After withdrawing between $500 and $600 from the victims’ bank accounts via ATMs, Cameron told police she was planning to drop them off far away to “make it hard for them to walk back into the city.”

Cameron told police she noticed electrical tape in the back seat and decided to wrap it around the victims’ eyes three times.

Cameron said the tape was wrapped loose enough to make sure they could breathe and get the tape off later, according to a police report. Cameron said she thought it was funny because they looked “like Zorro,” and proceeded to tie their hands in front of them.

She told police the victims were dropped off at a “turnout with a creek,” which police said was at Sprig Lake along Hecker Pass Highway.

Cameron said she then told Hernandez and Aguilar to get out of the car. When Aguilar didn’t move, Cameron said she kicked him out. Cameron told police she stayed inside and doesn’t know what happened at the bridge.

Hernandez and Aguilar, however, said Cameron and Duenas pushed them off the bridge, according to the police report.

The two men survived the fall and were able to flag down a passing motorist, who drove the men to their home where they called police, Gilroy Police Department Sgt. Chad Gallacinao said.

After dropping the truck off near Duenas’ apartment, Garcia, Duenas and Cameron checked into a room sometime after 5 a.m. at the King’s Rest Motel at the 8100 block of Monterey Street, according to police.

Cameron said she dropped the truck keys into a dumpster in San Jose as soon as she found out police were involved, according to court records.

Garcia was arrested at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 25, 2010, while Duenas and Cameron were arrested the next day, according to court records.

Leininger said Monday that when Duenas woke up the day after the kidnapping, “She realized, ‘Whoa, what the hell happened?'”

Garcia received credit for 299 days served Monday, while Cameron received credit for 297, Shapero announced. He said Duenas had been credited with 297 days served as well.

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