BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A Kern County judge on Tuesday denied a motion to dismiss an attempted robbery charge and special circumstance allegation filed in the shooting death of a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation counselor killed while charging his electric vehicle.
Deputy Public Defender Lexi Blythe argued the robbery allegation against Robert Pernell Roberts is based on testimony provided by an unreliable witness — whom she called an accomplice — who spoke with police to avoid getting charged with murder himself.
Also, Blythe said, there is new evidence the witness, Sebastian Parra, had a gun in a backpack when Benny Alcala was shot Aug. 24 in the area of the Target on Stockdale Highway.
Superior Court Judge Chad Louie, after listening to argument from Blythe and Deputy District Attorney Cole Sherman, said he wasn’t entirely convinced Parra was an accomplice and, even if he was, there is evidence including surveillance video corroborating his testimony.
Louie denied the motion, leaving Rogers — charged with first-degree murder with the special circumstance that the crime occurred during a robbery — possibly facing a death sentence if convicted.
Held without bail, Roberts is due back in court Dec. 14.
Last month, Parra testified at a preliminary hearing that Roberts, whom he said he met the evening of the shooting, needed money to get back to “the hood.” He testified Roberts tried to rob Alcala, believing he had money because he had an electric vehicle.
Blythe said there is no evidence, other than Parra’s testimony, that Roberts planned a robbery. Nothing was taken from Parra or his vehicle, and Roberts had enough money on his Lyft account to pay for a ride home, she said.
“All statements Mr. Parra made to the police about Mr. Roberts saying he was going to rob Mr. Alcala were not only assumptions,” Blythe wrote in her motion, “but they were made by Mr. Parra after the police told him they did not want him to go down for this homicide.”
She said in the motion Parra invented “potential speculative theories” based on information he learned during his police interview. He never saw Roberts with a gun, and claimed to hear but not witness the shooting.
Blythe noted in the motion all shell casings found at the scene came from a 9mm firearm. Parra has a 9mm handgun registered under his name.
In addition to Parra’s statement, police retrieved call data records showing Roberts’ phone in the area before the shooting, and he was caught on surveillance cameras at nearby businesses, according to the reports. Also, police say a text sent from a number linked to Roberts said, “I just killed somebody. Watch the news.”
Sherman referred to that evidence and told Louie — who did not preside over the preliminary hearing — another judge had decided there was sufficient evidence to support the charges and special circumstance allegation at this early stage.
“Essentially, there were multiple other pieces of evidence that corroborate Mr. Parra’s testimony,” Sherman said.