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Witnesses in Orcutt murder trial describe scene of deadly shooting outside popular bar

Posted at 5:16 PM, Oct 23, 2018

The trial of a man accused of murder in a deadly shooting outside an Orcutt bar is now underway.

Jonathan Highley is charged with murder and special firearms allegations for the March 2017 shooting death of Tony San Juan, 43.

During opening statements, prosecutor Anne Nudson described the scene outside Elmer’s bar the night San Juan was killed. She said Highley fought with several people at the bar that night, and after he was escorted out, tried to come back and got into another fight outside the bar. When that fight was over, Nudson said Highley went back to his nearby apartment and returned with a gun. While she said San Juan never fought with Highley, he was shot in the head while he and others tried to run away.

Jonathan Highley appears in a Santa Maria courtroom on day one of his murder trial. (KSBY photo)


The defense did not present an opening statement, so the first witness was called.

That witness described seeing Highley punch a man inside the bar. Highley was then kicked out of the bar, the witness said, but came back and got into a fight with another man. The fight ended up in the back parking lot and that’s when the witness said he heard a gunshot. Highley was described as the aggressor in the fight.

A second witness testified that she saw the end of the fight and that as people were leaving the parking lot, she heard a gunshot. She said she turned to see San Juan on the ground and Highley standing over him with a gun. The witness said she ran over to San Juan and asked him if he was okay but received no response.

Highley and his wife, Mayra Perez, were arrested hours after the Santa Maria husband and father of two was killed.

Perez pleaded no contest to being an accessory to murder after the fact and aiding and abetting and was sentencing last August to a year in jail, with credit for time served.

Previous coverage:
Jury selection begins in trial for man charged with murder of Santa Maria man