BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A Kern County jury has acquitted a man of murder in the beating death of his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend.
The jury on Thursday returned a verdict of not guilty against Fidel Gandara, who was accused of repeatedly striking Brian Guzman, 21, with a wooden bat in December 2018. Guzman died five days later.
Gandara had faced 25 years to life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder.
Tony Lidgett, Gandara’s defense attorney, said authorities immediately focused on his client despite an eyewitness statement in which the assailant’s description didn’t remotely match that of Gandara. They also didn’t look into the alleged gang connections of Guzman, who Lidgett said went by the name of “Baby Acek” and reputedly had many enemies.
“Every time that they did something, it was wrong,” Lidgett said of those involved in the arrest and prosecution of his client. “It was wrong every freaking time as to their theory.”
Prosecutor David McKillop said he respects the jury’s verdict, but it’s disappointing because he thought he had proved his case.
“It’s disappointing when you believe someone was responsible for murder and they get to go home,” he said.
Guzman shouted gang names when he showed up at his former girlfriend’s house the night of Dec. 18, 2018, telling her he had been shot at while attending a carwash fundraiser for a slain friend known as “Lil Acek,” Lidgett said. He told the ex he feared for his life.
She refused to let him in and see the child they shared in common. She told police Guzman looked unhealthy and she knew he used “spice,” also called synthetic marijuana, and believed he had begun using heroin.
Angry over being refused entry, Guzman broke a window and left, the girlfriend said in court documents. She then made two phone calls: one to police, the other to Gandara, her current boyfriend, who offered to come over.
A short time later, someone attacked Guzman on White Lane, west of Stine Road. Police arrived to find him lying on the pavement with blunt force trauma to the head.
A witness told police how another man beat Guzman with a short wooden bat. Lidgett said the witness couldn’t describe the race of the assailant, didn’t notice whether he had a beard (Gandara did at the time), gave an estimated height and weight that differed significantly from Gandara and provided a clothing description that didn’t match what Gandara wore that night.
Despite that, Lidgett said, an arrest warrant was issued for his client the next day.
In court documents, police said the ex repeatedly lied or withheld information. She at first denied calling Gandara, according to the filings, then admitted calling him but said she never directed him to harm Guzman. She told police Gandara and Guzman knew of each other through a mutual acquaintance who is a gang member.
Lidgett said Gandara was released at 10:30 p.m. Thursday and is trying to get back into a union he belonged to at the time of his arrest. He did construction work on freeways.
The attorney said Gandara sat quietly upon hearing the jury’s verdict.
“He was stoic,” Lidgett said. “He’s always been stoic.”