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Man charged with murder for Orcutt bar shooting testifies at trial

Posted at 4:56 PM, Nov 13, 2018

The man accused of shooting and killing a man outside an Orcutt bar in 2017 took the stand in his own defense on Tuesday.

Jonathan Highley is charged with murder and special firearms allegations for the shooting death of Tony San Juan, 43, outside Elmer’s bar.

Prosecutors say Highley fought with several people at the bar on the night of the shooting and after he was knocked to the ground during one of those altercations, he went back to his nearby apartment and returned to the bar’s parking lot with a gun.

San Juan died of a gunshot wound to the head.

On Tuesday, Highley testified that he had been to three different bars before arriving at Elmer’s that night, drinking for about nine hours after a ten-hour shift at the Vandenberg Air Force Base power plant.

Highley said he remembers punching a man in the face and being kicked out of the bar. He said someone yelled at him as he was being escorted out and that made him angry, so he tried to get back inside. Another man pushed him out and challenged him to a fight. Highly said he remembers sitting on the ground, then being in his apartment, holding a gun.

During cross-examination by prosecutor Anne Nudson, Highley said he did not remember shooting San Juan or having ever seen him before.

“You know you had killed a person?” Nudson asked.

Highley responded, “Yes, ma’am.”

Jonathan Highley takes the stand at his murder trial on Nov. 13, 2018. (KSBY photo)


The trial began on October 23.

Several witnesses have testified that Highley was combative with other patrons at the bar and that they remember seeing him with a gun.

Highley and his wife, Mayra Perez, were arrested hours after San Juan was killed.

Perez pleaded no contest to being an accessory to murder after the fact and aiding and abetting. She was sentenced 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
Witnesses in Orcutt murder trial describe scene of shooting outside popular bar
Orcutt murder trial continues with more witness testimony